Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen capital resume, nine civilians killed

09 Aug, 2016 4:00 pm

SANAA – A Saudi-led military coalition conducted air strikes on the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday for the first time in five months, residents said, after U.N.-backed peace talks to end the conflict broke down over the weekend.

Medics said nine civilians were killed in a strike on a potato chip factory in the Nahda district of the capital.

The Saudi-led coalition is backing Yemeni forces loyal to the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who are trying to oust Iran-allied Houthi forces from Sanaa.

The coalition also forced the suspension of flights into Sanaa International Airport for 72 hours from late on Monday, an airport official and aid agency sources said.

A spokesman for the coalition did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the air strikes or the closure of the airport.

The air strikes hit a presidential compound and military base in Sanaa as well as a Republican Guard base in the Arhab area near the airport, residents said. Pro-government forces are trying to advance into the city from the north and east.

On Sunday night the Saudi-led coalition killed nine civilians in an air strike outside Sanaa.

In a separate development, residents in Azzan in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province said Al Qaeda militants had dismantled their checkpoints and had withdrawn from the city on Tuesday following air strikes – apparently by the Saudi-led coalition forces – targeting their positions there.

The militants took advantage of the country’s wartime chaos to seize control of much of southern Yemen, but have suffered military setbacks inflicted by coalition-backed local forces.

Saudi Arabia and its mostly Gulf Arab allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 after the armed Houthi movement had pushed the Hadi administration into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The coalition has launched thousands of air attacks on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen’s army, but paused the strikes on Sanaa in March after reaching an informal agreement with the Houthis to tamp down combat on the Yemeni-Saudi border.

Imposing a near-blockade aimed at weapons shipments to the Houthis, the coalition had mostly allowed Sanaa airport to operate civilian and humanitarian aid flights since March. –Reuters

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