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Civilians pay heavy toll in Yemen fighting

April 8, 2015

Aid workers have warned of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen as the civil war continues. The US has meanwhile stepped up weapons deliveries for the Saudi-led offensive against Yemen's Houthi militias.

Image: Reuters/K. Abdullah

A humanitarian crisis was unfolding in Yemen, aid workers said, adding that at least 560 people had been killed in the civil war and the Saudi Arabia-led offensive to rout Iran-backed Houthi rebels who were fighting Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The dead included at least 74 children, according to the UN children's agency UNICEF. More than 1,700 people had been wounded and another 100,000 rendered homeless, reported the World Health Organization (WHO).

A Red Cross plane with 17 tons of medical supplies was waiting in Jordan's capital Amman for an order to land in Sanaa.

"If these medical supplies do not reach Yemen, then unfortunately we are afraid may more people will die," Sitara Jabeen of the Red Cross told the Associated Press.

US steps up support

Civil war broke out in Yemen when Shiite Houthi rebels began fighting to oust President Hadi. Following the Houthis' assault in the port of Aden nearly two weeks ago, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, which launched an offensive with its allies, including Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, to defeat the Iran-backed Houthis.

The United States also joined in the struggle to regain control over Yemen as Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed appreciation for the Saudi campaign, calling it a "strong message" to Houthi rebels. "In support of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries," Blinken told reporters in Saudi Arabia after talks with Riyadh's officials.

IKRK Sitara Jabeen
Sitara Jabeen of the Red Cross: Many more people could dieImage: ICRC

Washington says it's planning to increase intelligence sharing and a joint coordination center with Saudi officials. News agency AFP reported a US official as saying that the country was sending precision-guided munitions to the United Arab Emirates, which would deliver them to other partners.

Jordan resolution against Houthis

The Saudi-led strikes, which began on March 26, could also be backed by a proposal by Gulf Arab countries who wanted the United Nations Security Council to blacklist Ahmed Saleh, a Houthi militia leader and son of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The proposed embargo, if implemented, would impose an arms ban on Yemen's former president, his son and three other Houthi leaders loyal to Saleh. The resolution, drafted by Jordan, also called on "member states, in particular states neighboring Yemen, to inspect…all cargo to Yemen."

The international community and all parties in the conflict were asked to facilitate evacuation of civilians and personnel from foreign countries from Yemen.

mg/gsw (AP, AFP, Reuters)