Saudi-led airstrikes don't slow in Yemen ahead of cease-fire

2015-05-12 18:14
(Hani Mohammed, AP)

(Hani Mohammed, AP)

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Sana'a - Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition kept up their airstrikes in Yemen on Tuesday, targeting the positions of Shi'ite rebels and their allies just hours ahead of the scheduled start of a five-day humanitarian cease-fire.

The strikes stopped shortly before the new United Nations envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, flew into the capital, Sana'a, on his first official visit to the country. He told reporters he planned to meet with various parties, including the rebels known as Houthis, and ensure that the cease-fire holds.

"We will discuss the humanitarian truce and the Yemeni parties' return to the negotiating table," he said.

Security officials said airstrikes overnight, at dawn and during the morning hours targeted weapons depots and other military facilities north and south of Sana'a, a sprawling city of some 4 million people. The military air base that is part of the capital's international airport also was targeted.

Ten strikes hit Sana'a from dawn until about noon on Tuesday, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists.

Fierce fighting also raged on Tuesday in Taiz between the rebels and forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, officials said. The rebels and their allies also shelled residential areas in the strategic city southwest of Sana'a, with one shell hitting a bus, killing nine people and wounding 40, officials said. An airstrike targeted the city's al-Qahira castle, from which the shelling came, they said.

The cease-fire, scheduled to begin at 23:00, is meant to help ease the suffering of civilians in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.

The conflict has killed over 1 400 people - many of them civilians - since March 19, according to the UN. The country of some 25 million people has endured shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity as a result of a Saudi-led naval, air and land blockade.

Anticipating the truce, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it plans to airlift 300 metric tons of sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting from stockpiles in Dubai.

The airlift, it said, was part of what it called a "larger aid mobilisation underway for a quarter of a million people". The agency also will attempt to distribute aid already stored in Yemen and assess the needs for areas that have been difficult to reach.

Read more on:    yemen

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