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Dec 13, 11:43 AM EST

Suspected Saudi-led airstrikes kill 23 in Yemen


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AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Suspected Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have killed at least 23 people, including prisoners, and wounded dozens in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, rebel officials and eyewitnesses said Wednesday.

The airstrikes, which took place late Tuesday and early Wednesday, targeted a rebel military police camp. The Saudi-led coalition has intensified its campaign against the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, since the rebels killed former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, their onetime ally, earlier this month.

Several buildings were damaged and dozens remain trapped under the rubble, the eyewitnesses and officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis since March 2015 and has imposed a blockade on the impoverished country, allowing only occasional humanitarian access. The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment on the airstrikes.

The stalemated war has killed more than 10,000 civilians, displaced 3 million, crippled Yemen's health system and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine. The impoverished country is also grappling with a cholera epidemic.

Doctors Without Borders, known by the French acronym MSF, said Tuesday the war and the blockade contributed to a suspected diphtheria outbreak.

The group said over 300 suspected diphtheria cases and 28 deaths have been reported in 15 of Yemen's 20 provinces from mid-August to early December. Diphtheria is a contagious and potentially fatal disease that primarily infects the throat and airways.

"This is undeniably another human-made disease inflicted on a country that has barely recovered from a massive cholera outbreak - which is not even over yet," said MSF's emergency coordinator in the Yemeni province of Ibb, Marc Poncin.

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