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Rebels kill top Saudi commander ahead of Yemen ceasefire

Ahead of UN-brokered peace talks, Houthi rebels have killed a senior commander of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A ceasefire is due to take effect to allow humanitarian groups to deliver much-needed aid.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen announced on Monday that a senior Saudi military commander and an Emirati officer were killed fighting Houthi rebels, a day before UN brokered peace talks are slated to kick off.

The official state-run Saudi Press Agency said that Saudi Colonel Abdullah al-Sahyan and Emirati officer Sultan al-Kitbi were killed early Monday morning "while they were carrying out their duties in supervising operation to liberate Taiz," a key city and capital of the Taiz province.

A Houthi official claimed that rebels fired a missile at a Saudi-led coalition military base in the central province, resulting in the officer and commander's deaths, according to DPA news agency.

The rebels' gain comes on the heels of a ceasefire, due to take effect at midnight local time (2100 UTC).

The ceasefire is set to begin on the eve of UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland, which seek to secure an end to the conflict between forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels.

In March, Houthis advanced on the port city of Aden, prompting Hadi to flee the country for the Saudi capital Riyadh. By late March, Saudi Arabia, along with several Arab countries, had formed a coalition and launched airstrikes against Houthi targets.

According to the UN, more than 5,000 people - roughly half of them civilians - have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict. Around 27,000 people have been wounded.

The UN has pushed parties involved in the conflict to uphold a ceasefire in order to deliver much-needed aid to 80 percent of the 26 million inhabitants who lack basic provisions.

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ls/rc (AFP, dpa)

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