Arab coalition air strikes kill 15 in Yemen, hours before truce
DUBAI – Air strikes by an Arab coalition targeting Yemen’s Houthis killed at least 15 civilians, residents said, as fighting intensified ahead of a ceasefire due to take effect to pave the way for UN-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland.
Residents said war planes launched two raids on the village of Bani al-Haddad, in the northern Hajjah province on the border with Saudi Arabia, killing 13 people and wounding 20 others.
Two more residents died while medics were trying to evacuate them, they said.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not be reached for immediate comment but the alliance says it does not target civilians.
In south-western Yemen, coalition forces captured the Red Sea island of Zuqur, part of the Hanish Archipelago that controls the main sea route near the strait of Bab al-Mandab, Saudi state television reported quoting the coalition spokesman.
The island contains the highest mountain in the area, which gives the coalition control over the waterway.
Residents also reported air strikes in Dhamar and Hodeida provinces and ground clashes in the city of Taiz, a focal point of fighting between the Houthis and Hadi supporters, as well as in Marib, east of the capital Sanaa.
The coalition has said that the ceasefire requested by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to facilitate the planned peace talks in Switzerland would start at noon local time (0900 GMT) on Tuesday.
In a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA, the coalition said Arab forces retained the right to respond to any breach of the ceasefire.
The coalition has been waging mainly air strikes on the Houthis since March, after the Houthis seized control of much of the country in a series of moves that started in September 2014.
The Houthis say their actions are aimed at state corruption and against the militant Islamist al Qaeda, while the
Saudi-led coalition sees the Houthis as furthering rival Iran’s efforts to expand its influence into the Arabian Peninsula.
Two senior commanders from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among dozens of fighters killed in a rocket strike in south-western Yemen, according to local media and Yemeni sources on Monday.
A previous round of peace talks in Geneva in June failed to produce a breakthrough, with each side blaming the other for the failure of the talks. -Reuters