Saudi-led airstrikes pound Sanaa ahead of Yemen ceasefire | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 12.05.2015
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Middle East

Saudi-led airstrikes pound Sanaa ahead of Yemen ceasefire

The Saudi-led coalition has targeted Shiite rebels in Yemen's capital Sanaa hours before a five-day ceasefire is set to start. Residents of the city said the target of the Arab states' warplanes was a Houthi army base.

According to Yemen's security officials, Monday's strikes targeted an arms depot on Mount Noqom to the north of Sanaa. Eyewitnesses said the bombing shook the capital, damaging many buildings. The strikes also caused the depot to explode, sending debris and munitions over nearby residential areas. There were no initial reports of civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, the coalition - made up primarily of Sunni Gulf states - also attacked Houthi positions in the southern port city of Aden, where pro-Saudi local militias are fighting against the Shiite Houthis.

The Saudi airstrikes followed the release of a video by Houthis that purportedly showed the wreckage of a coalition fighter plane which was lost over the weekend, and which the rebels claim to have shot down near the northern Yemeni city of Saada near the Saudi border.

Ceasefire looming

Fighting in Yemen has continued despite the fact that a ceasefire is set to take effect later on Tuesday at 11 p.m. local time (2000 UTC/GMT).

The Saudis said on Sunday the temporary truce would give donors a chance to get much needed humanitarian aid into the country, but stressed the plan could not go ahead without the rebels' agreement.

Yemeni troops fighting alongside Houthi rebels reportedly agreed to the Saudi-proposed ceasefire but it is not clear if the Houthis themselves have accepted the truce. A statement from the group at the weekend said the rebels would deal "positively" with any efforts to lift the suffering of the Yemeni people.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states launched an air campaign against the Houthis on March 26. Riyadh accuses Tehran of backing the rebels, who have made significant territorial gains in the impoverished Middle Eastern country, capturing the capital Sanaa and ousting internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled Yemen back in March.

The Sunni Gulf states are wary of Iran's increasing influence in the region, and they see the Houthis' advance in Yemen as a move that threatens their regional and geopolitical interests.

Over 1,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the start of the Saudi campaign, according to the United Nations.

shs/msh (AP, Reuters)

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