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Saudi-led coalition launches deadly airstrikes in Yemen, despite Houthi demands

Saudi-led warplanes have launched more airstrikes in Yemen, as both sides call for talks but press on with military action. The World Health Organization has said the death toll since March has topped 1,000.

The latest wave of airstrikes is reported to have killed at least 23 rebels, as the Shiite rebels pressed ahead with an operation in the south of the country.

The strikes on Thursday killed at least 23 rebels in the southern town of Daleh and nearby Lahj, where schools housing rebels positions were said to have been flattened. Other raids targeted a former university building in Yarim, in Ibb province.

Both the Houthis and the troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is the country's UN-recognized leader, have said they are willing to enter talks. However, so far neither has halted military operations.

The coalition on Tuesday declared

an end to the initial phase of its operations

against the Houthis and their allies, and a scaling-back of airstrikes. However, Saudi Arabia and its allies retained the right to use aerial power to prevent Houthis from moving strategically within the country.

A US official said on Thursday that Iranian cargo ships were moving away from Yemen, amid

Washington's concerns

that Tehran, which supports the Houthis and which has called the Saudi-led bombing a "genocide" was sending weapons into the region.

New diplomatic posting

At the United Nations on Thursday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon nominated Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to be the new UN envoy to Yemen. He takes over from Morocco's Jamal Benomar, who stood down last week after his mediation efforts failed to win the backing of Persian Gulf states.

The death toll in Yemen since late March has now topped 1,000, including nearly 50 children, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The WHO, the UN's health agency, said a total of 1,080 people had died in the violence, including 48 children and 28 women, between March 19 and April 20. A further 4,352 people were injured in that time.

rc/bk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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