Middle East

Yemen conflict: Saudis launch new air strikes on rebels

Houthi supporters walk past broken glass at a demonstration in Yemen's capital, Sanaa (22 April 2015) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Houthis say they are ready to resume political dialogue under United Nations auspices

Saudi-led coalition warplanes have struck Houthi rebels across Yemen in fresh raids, two days after announcing the end of a month-long air campaign.

Rebel positions were targeted in the central cities of Ibb and Taiz, and in Aden and Dalea in the south.

Clashes between rebels and militiamen loyal to exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi also continued in Aden.

Riyadh said on Tuesday its campaign had achieved its goals, but that military action would continue as needed.

The coalition had set out to restore Mr Hadi and his government, and to halt the Houthis' advance across southern and western Yemen.

However, Mr Hadi remains in Riyadh and the Houthis and allied military units loyal to ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are still in control of large swathes of the country, including Sanaa.

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Media captionYemeni people in Sanaa explain how the ongoing conflict is destroying their city and affecting their daily lives

Tanks targeted

Overnight, coalition warplanes struck rebel positions close to the capital and the third city of Taiz, where the Houthis seized the headquarters of a pro-Hadi armoured brigade on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, strikes were reported in and around Aden. The targets reportedly included tanks being used by Houthi fighters in the southern port city.

Two colleges used as bases by the rebels on the outskirts of Ibb and in the nearby town of Yarim were also bombed, while a military base was hit in al-Kafr.

Later, dozens of Houthis were killed or injured in air strikes in Dalea, according to Al Jazeera.

On Wednesday evening, eight rebels died in clashes in Dalea province, while five others were killed while fighting southern militiamen in Aden, residents told the Reuters news agency.

A newly-formed Islamic State offshoot calling itself the "Green Brigade" also claimed it was behind a bombing that killed five rebels in Yarim on Wednesday, the AFP news agency reported.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pro-government southern militiamen have vowed to drive out the rebels from Aden
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Millions of civilians have been affected by conflict in Yemen, according to the UN

The UN says at least 1,080 people had been killed and 4,350 injured in air strikes, fighting on the ground and attacks by jihadist militants in Yemen since 19 March.

More than 150,000 people have been displaced and an estimated two million children are unable to attend school.

The country's health system is also at imminent risk of collapse due to shortages of medical supplies and fuel for generators, UN officials warn. Cases of bloody diarrhoea, measles and suspected malaria have increased.

After declaring the end of its bombing campaign, the coalition said it would focus on preventing the rebels from "targeting civilians or changing realities on the ground" and finding a political solution the conflict.

But the Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, warned the Houthis on Wednesday that they "should be under no illusion that we will [not] use force in order to stop them taking over Yemen by aggressive actions".

The rebels issued a statement declaring that they were ready to "resume political dialogue... under the sponsorship of the United Nations". But they also demanded a "complete end to the aggression against Yemen and the lifting of the blockade".

Warehouse strike condemned

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch warned that an air strike on a warehouse of the charity Oxfam in northern Yemen last Saturday was an apparent violation of the laws of war.

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Media captionFormer USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold "concerned on a strategic scale" about Yemen unrest

"The fact that the Oxfam warehouse should have been known to the coalition forces raises concerns that the attack was deliberate," the US-based group said.

Oxfam's Yemen country director, Grace Ommer, called the attack on the warehouse in the city of Saada - a stronghold of the Houthis - "an absolute outrage".

She said the coalition had been told where Oxfam's offices and warehouses were located, and that they contained humanitarian supplies associated with the provision of clean water. The coalition has so far not commented.

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