Saudi-led coalition issues ultimatum over Yemen rebel stronghold

2015-05-08 18:37
(File: AFP)

(File: AFP)

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Sana'a - A Saudi-led coalition, mounting an air campaign for the past six weeks in Yemen, called on residents of the northern province of Saada to leave before Friday sunset - signalling further attacks on the stronghold of the Iran-backed rebel Houthis.

Allied aircraft dropped leaflets on Saada, urging civilians to leave it for safer areas through secured routes, Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.

The alliance will treat the whole of Saada as a military target beginning from 19:00 (16:00 GMT), the broadcaster said.

The ultimatum prompted an exodus from the province, which was the target of intensified coalition airstrikes earlier on Friday, local residents said.

"Many civilians are still stuck in several areas of Saada because there are not enough means of transport amid a severe shortage of fuel," a resident told dpa.

"Other families have no shelter outside Saada."

Allied jets had pounded military facilities in Saada in response to shelling attacks by the Houthis on Saudi border towns, official Saudi news agency SPA reported.

The strikes destroyed a communications complex, a factory for manufacturing mines and command centres in various areas of Saada located near the Saudi border, according to the agency.

The air raids also destroyed the tomb of Hussein al-Houthi, the founder of the Shiite rebel movement.

The bombing came hours after the Saudis accused the Houthis of "crossing a red line" by attacking Saudi border towns, and vowed a "harsh response".

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia had proposed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen to facilitate the delivery of aid to civilians.

The kingdom conditioned the deal on Houthi rebels agreeing to abide by its terms. There was no official comment from the rebels.

Details of the ceasefire were expected to be worked out at a meeting in Paris on Friday between US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia.

The talks were also to prepare for a meeting due later this month between US President Barack Obama and Gulf leaders, according to Al Arabiya.

In March, Saudi Arabia and eight fellow Sunni Arab countries launched an air campaign against the Shi'ite Houthis after they advanced on Yemen's second city of Aden, forcing Sunni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

The intervention has been repeatedly denounced by Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia.

Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  yemen

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