TAEZ // Fierce fighting raged on Saturday in south Yemen between Iran-backed rebels and loyalists of exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, as pressure mounted for the warring factions to hold political talks.
The Houthi rebels, who have overrun large parts of the country and forced Mr Hadi to flee overseas, have demanded a complete end to a month of Saudi-led air strikes against them as a condition for UN-sponsored talks.
At least 92 people were killed in airstrikes and clashes on Saturday in towns in the south of the impoverished country, strategically located next to Saudi Arabia and key shipping routes.
There were also heavy clashes in Taez city.
Former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who still holds sway over army units allied with the Shiite rebels, late on Friday urged the Houthis to heed UN demands to withdraw from territory they have seized.
US secretary of state John Kerry also called on the anti-government forces to enter into political dialogue to end a conflict that the UN says has killed more than 1,000 people since late March.
“This has to be a two-way street,” Mr Kerry told reporters, adding: “We need the Houthi and we need those that can influence them to make sure that they are prepared to try to move ... to the negotiating table.”
In the key port city of Aden and in the adjacent Lahj province alone, 46 rebels died in ongoing clashes and 12 hours of intense airstrikes that lasted until early Saturday, a military source said.
A medic in Aden said eight pro-Hadi militiamen were killed and 32 were wounded.
The military source and pro-Hadi militiamen said coalition warships were also taking part in the shelling.
Warplanes’ targets included the rebel-held presidential palace which was Mr Hadi’s last refuge before he fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia last month, military officials said.
The coalition has kept up airstrikes days after announcing its campaign was entering a new phase aimed at resuming the political process, delivering aid and fighting terrorism.
Airstrikes also hit the rebel-held Al Anad air base in Lahj north of Aden, which housed US troops supporting a long-running drone war against Al Qaeda before the fighting forced them to withdraw.
Residents in Lahj said the rebels had captured “dozens” of civilians they accused of aiding the coalition by giving them information on rebel targets.
Government officials earlier gave a toll of 38 killed in clashes in the southern towns of Daleh and Loder.
The UN says millions have been affected by the conflict and are struggling to access healthcare, water, food and fuel.
* Agence France-Presse