LAHIJ, Yemen: People gather as ambulances transport casualties of strikes on Al-Anad air base to the Ibn Khaldun hospital in the government-held southern province of Lahij, yesterday. - AFP

DUBAI: Strikes on Yemen's largest airbase yesterday killed at least 30 pro-government troops and wounded scores more, said medical and loyalist sources who blamed Houthi rebels for the attack. The strikes were carried out on Al-Anad airbase, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Yemen's second city Aden in the south of the conflict-riven country. The airbase served as the headquarters for US troops overseeing a long-running drone war against Al-Qaeda until they pulled out in March 2015, shortly before the Houthis overran the area.

"More than 30 have been killed and at least 56 were injured" in the strikes on the airbase in the government-held southern province of Lahij, armed forces spokesman Mohammed Al-Naqib told AFP. Video footage from the scene showed dozens of people gathered in front of Lahij hospital, where one ambulance after another was pulling up to drop off casualties.

An official from the hospital said it was all hands on deck. "We have called on the entire staff, surgeons and nurses, to come in," Mohsen Murshid told AFP. "We also know that there are still bodies under the rubble". Naqib had in an earlier statement accused Yemen's Houthi rebels of carrying out missile and drone strikes on the facility. There was no immediate comment from the rebel side. A military medic confirmed the death toll after it jumped from seven fatalities earlier in the day.

Airbase attacked in 2019

Yemen's internationally recognized government-backed by a Saudi-led military coalition-and the Houthis have been locked in war since 2014, when the insurgents seized the capital Sanaa. In 2019, the Houthis said they launched a drone strike on Al-Anad during a military parade, with medics and government sources saying that at least six loyalists were killed-including a high-ranking intelligence official. Eleven people were wounded in that attack, including Yemen's deputy chief of staff Major General Saleh Al-Zandani who later died of his injuries.

Al-Anad was recaptured by government forces in August 2015 as they recovered territory from the rebels across the south with support from the Saudi-led coalition. Yesterday's incident is one of the deadliest since December 2020, when blasts targeting cabinet members rocked Aden airport.

At the time, at least 26 people, including three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a journalist, were killed and scores wounded in the explosions as ministers disembarked from an aircraft in the southern city. Yemen's grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, resulting in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Some 80 percent of Yemen's 30-million population are dependent on some form of aid for survival. While the UN is pushing for an end to the war, the Houthis have demanded the re-opening of Sanaa airport, closed under a Saudi blockade since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations. The incoming UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, will officially assume his duties on September 5. -AFP