SANAA, Yemen — Dozens of Saudi-led airstrikes rocked Yemen's capital early Wednesday, targeting a sprawling police commando camp, sending black smoke billowing into the air and causing panic among residents in the early morning while the World Health Organization announced that 2,000 people have died in the conflict in the past two months.
The airstrikes are part of a Saudi-led military operation that began March 26 to target Shiite rebels known as Houthis, along with army units loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two groups are allied and occupy the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north.
Wednesday's strikes targeted the police camp located in central Sanaa, close to the presidential palace. An Associated Press reporter saw ambulances rushing to the scene and thick black smoke covering the whole area, obstructing visibility.
Blocks away, administrative buildings and shops suffered damage, with metal shutters twisted off their frames, windows broken and doors blown off their hinges. Streets were littered with shattered glass, toppled street lights and overturned cars.
Many of Sanaa's residents sought shelter in basements and shops were closed, while city streets were deserted.
Witnesses say planes also bombed a naval base in western Hodeida controlled by the Houthis. Saudi and allied jets also bombed the northern Houthi srongholds of Saada and Hajjah.
In a new report Wednesday, World Health Organization Chief Margaret Chan said that Yemen's conflict has left up to 2,000 people dead and 8,000 wounded, including hundreds of women and children. She did not specify how many of the dead were civilian.
Most recent U.N. estimates said that at least 1,037 civilians, including 130 women and 234 children, have been killed in the fighting.
Chan also said that the killings sometimes included whole families, giving the example of a 65-year-old woman named Fathiya who lost 13 members of her family in an attack that left her the only guardian of three surviving grandchildren.
There is a shortage of fuel, water, fuel and medical supplies, in addition to destroyed f health facilities, and 7.5 million people are in urgent need of medical help.
Earlier this week, international humanitarian group Oxfam warned that some 16 million people in Yemen don't have access to clean water. Half a million people have been displaced across the country.
The campaign of airstrikes has devastated rebel positions, ammunition depots and bases, but it has largely failed to pave the way for the recapture of the strategic southern city of Aden. The internationally-recognized president of Yemen, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, declared Aden the country's temporarily capital before fleeing to Saudi Arabia.
Hadi's allied southern fighters managed on Tuesday to recapture the strategic city of Dhale, located near Aden.
Dhale and Aden were among top cities that suffered the most and the government branded them as "disaster zones." On Wednesday, residents said that communications were down, except for landlines, as fighting intensified in the outskirts of the city between militias supporting President Hadi and the Houthis and Saleh's forces.