Airstrikes in several cities as fighting rages across Yemen
SANAA // Aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen struck targets in several cities on Sunday, including the capital, security officials said, as fighting raged across the country.
The continued airstrikes and combat between rival factions on the ground underline how a negotiated peace remains elusive. They also come despite a Saudi announcement last week saying coalition operations would scale down and shift to focus on diplomacy, humanitarian and counterterrorism issues.
The Sunday airstrikes began just after midnight, officials said, hitting a military base known to be an arms depot on the outskirts of Sanaa, as well as sites near the presidential palace where weapons were being moved. Fierce street battles in the central city of Taez killed some 20 civilians and wounded dozens, they added, with mortar rounds fired indiscriminately and landing near a hospital at one point.
In the southern port city of Aden, they said air raids targeted the rebels, known as Houthis, as street fighting between them and forces loyal to embattled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi continued.
The Houthis are allied with military units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Although Mr Hadi is Yemen’s internationally recognised leader, he was forced to flee the capital and later fled the country as the Houthis advanced toward his stronghold of Aden last month. The Saudi-led coalition began conducting airstrikes against rebel positions on March 26.
Mr Hadi is now in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The Houthis still control much of the country.
Also Sunday, pro-Saleh forces battled tribesmen in the central Marib province, where coalition airstrikes also hit targets. The officials added that the jets also struck pro-rebel sites in Shabwa and Lahj provinces.
The countries in the coalition and their Western supporters say the Houthis get their arms from Shiite powerhouse Iran, something both Tehran and the rebels deny.
The United Nations has also confirmed Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as the new special envoy to Yemen, replacing Moroccan Jamal Benomar who resigned last week following what diplomats described as sharp criticism of his performance by Gulf states.
Mr Ould Cheikh Ahmed “will work closely with the members of the United Nations Security Council, the Gulf Cooperation Council, governments in the region and other partners, as well as the United Nations country team for Yemen,” a UN statement said.
The United Nations said on Friday that the war has killed over 550 civilians in the past month, including 115 children.
* Associated Press, Agence France-Presse
Published: April 27, 2015 04:00 AM