Airstrikes hit Yemen hours before ceasefire | News | DW | 15.12.2015

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Airstrikes hit Yemen hours before ceasefire

Warplanes from the Saudi-led Arab coalition targeting Yemen's dominant Houthi group has killed at least 10 people hours before a ceasefire takes effect. Rival factions are meeting in Switzerland for peace talks.

Military jets raided the village of Bani al-Haddad, in the northern Hajjah province, late Monday near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Residents told the Reuters news agency at least 15 peopled lost their lives with more than 20 others wounded. The rebel-controlled Saba news agency said at least 10 had died.

Since March, the Saudi-led coalition has been waging mainly air strikes - with US logistical and intelligence support - against Iran-backed Houthis fighters.

Peace talks in Switzerland

The air strike comes just hours before rival factions meet in Switzerland for Tuesday's peace talks aimed at ending the violence that's wracked Yemen. A seven-day ceasefire formally begins at noon local time (0900 UTC) but Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi warned that it "reserves the right to respond in case of any violation."

A lull in fighting is sorely needed in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest nation, where an estimated 80 percent of the population requires immediate humanitarian aid. And jihadists, including "Islamic State" (IS) and al-Qaeda organizations, have exploited the violence, gaining ground and carrying out deadly attacks that has killed many civilians.

The rebel Houthi forces have yet to say if they will abide by the ceasefire agreement. Previous UN-sponsored initiatives have failed to narrow differences; past ceasefires were broken.

But now the warring sides have agreed to talks despite protracted differences, including over UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for rebels to withdraw from key cities and surrender their weapons.

Jemen Waffenpause vor Friedensgesprächen in Genf Mohammed Abdul-Salam

Houthi militia spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said: "There is an opportunity now more than at any of the previous talks and negotiations to stop this war ... to confront terrorism and challenges."

Iran and Saudi's proxy war has devastated Yemen

Also fuelling the urgency behind Tuesday's talks is that Yemen has become a proxy contest between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, is a dangerous distraction diverting regional attention from the task of confronting IS on its home turf and ending Syria's long-running civil war.

But serious differences remain. The Houthis, who have long complained of marginalization under the government, seized administrative buildings in Sanaa in September 2014, several months after advancing from their northern stronghold of Saada.

The Shiite Houthis say their move as a revolution against state corruption and against the Sunni militant Islamist al Qaeda.

They later encroached on second city Aden, forcing President Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia.

But in November, Hadi returned to Aden and declared it his provisional capital. And pro-government forces - under cover of Saudi-led air power and heavy weaponry - have recaptured five southern provinces, including Aden, since July.

All this at a devastating cost. The ensuing fighting - with bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia backing opposite factions - has killed more than 5,800 people, about half of them civilians, with more than 27,000 wounded since March.

jar/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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