SANAA, Yemen — An airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition reportedly killed more than two dozen people in Yemen’s capital Monday, a day after a rebel leader vowed to press ahead with an offensive that has dragged the Arabian Peninsula country into a deepening civil war.
The aerial bombardment targeted a weapons depot and killed at least 25 people, according to an official at the Yemeni Health Ministry. More than 350 were reported wounded.
“The number of casualties is still rising, and the hospitals are finding great difficulty in dealing with the increasing number of wounded and killed,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
It appeared to be the deadliest airstrike in Sanaa since the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia began its air campaign more than three weeks ago to drive back the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who effectively took control of the capital in September.
An amateur video, which could not be independently verified, purported to capture the attack. Residents posted images on Twitter that showed streets filled with mangled vehicles and homes showered in broken glass. Residents said the blast shattered windows throughout the city.
“Suddenly we felt an earthquake trembling underneath our feet and the window glass shattered all over the place from the explosion,” said Mukhtar Abdullah Alawadhi, 30, the manager of a company about a mile from the blast site. “It was so strong that even the window frames came off the walls.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser were steaming toward Yemen from the Persian Gulf on Monday. The USS Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy will join 10 U.S. ships off the coast of Yemen. The Navy sent the additional vessels to ensure that vital shipping lanes in the region remain safe and open, according to a Pentagon statement.
The Sanaa attack occurred a day after rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi pledged to press ahead with his campaign despite the coalition strikes.
In a televised address, Houthi said the “great Yemeni people will never surrender,” and he accused Saudi Arabia of attempting an “invasion.” While the Saudi-led Arab coalition has carried out the aerial bombardment, the United States has provided logistical support and weapons.
Saudi Arabia views the Houthis, who follow an offshoot of Shiite Islam, as proxies of its archrival in the region, Shiite power Iran. But the rebels reject that accusation, as does Tehran.
The Saudis hope to return to power Yemen’s Western-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia last month in the face of the rebel advances. In February, the Houthis dissolved the parliament and continued to push south. They are now threatening to take control of the port city of Aden, which has been ravaged by the fighting.
The United Nations estimates that the coalition airstrikes have killed more than 360 civilians. The violence is creating a humanitarian crisis in the country, which already was the Arab world’s poorest before the current chaos.
On Sunday, Britain-based Oxfam accused the Arab coalition of attacking one of the humanitarian group’s storage facilities in the northern province of Saada a day earlier.
In a statement, the organization said it had provided the coalition with the coordinates to its facility, which contained “humanitarian supplies” for such things as providing drinking water to area residents.
“This is an absolute outrage, particularly when one considers that we have shared detailed information with the coalition on the locations of our offices and storage facilities,” Grace Ommer, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, said in the statement.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels and their supporters. The measure includes military units loyal to former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is widely accused of using his influence with the army to aid the rebels.
Naylor reported from Beirut. Brian Murphy and Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to this report.