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Monday, July 6, 2015

Somali refugees killed as fighting intensifies in Aden

Fighting intensifies in Aden

ADEN: Fighting gripped Yemen’s second city Aden on Sunday as the UN envoy arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa to press efforts to broker a ceasefire. Coalition warplanes bombed rebel positions, killing eight people, while rebel rocket fire killed six, including a child, officials said. The dead from the Katyusha fire were Somali refugees who had sought shelter in a kindergarten, medics said. 

In neighbouring Lahj province, Hadi loyalists attacked a rebel gathering, killing 11, military sources said.

They also attacked the rebel-held Al Anad air base, Yemen’s largest. Eight rebels and two Hadi loyalists were killed, the sources said.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sanaa for talks with the rebels and their allies on his ceasefire plans.

He told reporters at the airport that he was hoping “rapidly to secure a humanitarian truce” which could pave the way for a “peaceful settlement of the crisis which has turned into a catastrophe.”

Separately, Houthi-run news agency Saba said coalition airstrikes killed 30 civilians in an attack on a market in northern Yemen on Sunday.

Saba said the air strike targeted the Aahem market in Hajjah province, where preliminary figures showed that 30 civilians were killed and an unspecified number of people were wounded.

Residents confirmed an air strike on the market but gave no figures on casualties, saying the Houthis closed off the area and were transporting casualties to hospitals.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached for a comment.

On the attacks on Saudi military positions, Saba said that the Yemeni army launched several strikes on Al Sharafa army camp and the military airport in Najran and on tanks stationed north of the Al Khoba region of the Saudi province of Jizan.

It said one Saudi soldier was killed at an observation tower in Dhahran Aseer, where an armoured vehicle was also destroyed, while a tank was destroyed and dozens of soldiers were wounded at Al Makhrooq post in Najran when it was attacked with artillery and rocket fire.

Political sources in Muscat said Saudi-led forces had demanded guarantees that the Houthis and allied army units would not use the pause to keep advancing on areas held by forces allied or loyal to Hadi in south and eastern Yemen.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said in a post on his Facebook page that he had met Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Friday in Muscat to discuss the matter.

He said the meeting was attended by the ambassadors of the European Union and Germany.

The United Nations organised a five-day humanitarian pause in May, but aid groups said the truce was not long enough to cover all the need of Yemen.

On Wednesday, the United Nations declared Yemen a level three emergency, the highest on its scale.

More than 21.1 million people -- over 80 per cent of Yemen’s population -- are in need of aid, with 13 million facing food shortages. More than 2,800 people have been killed in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country since March, according to UN figures.

Aden was the last refuge of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi before he fled to Saudi Arabia in March and has been a key battleground ever since.

Agencies/Gulf News