Yemen rebels advance on key city amid Arab coalition airstrikes (dpa German Press Agency)

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  • March 30, 2015
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Sana’a (dpa) – Yemen’s Houthi rebels were advancing on the southern city of Aden on Monday despite airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition amid fears that the conflict is taking its toll on civilians.
Houthi insurgents were positioned about 30 kilometres east of Aden, stronghold of embattled President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
The Houthis are besieging the port city from all directions.
Allied warplanes bombarded a Houthi convoy of military vehicles carrying weapons east of Aden on Monday, a local official said.
“Columns of smoke are rising in the area as a result of an explosion caused by the airstrikes,” the official told dpa by phone without giving details.
Fierce battling was meanwhile under way between Houthi fighters and pro-Hadi militiamen in and around Aden, according to the official.
“The situation in the city is very bad. There are more than 60 dead bodies and 401 wounded people lying in hospitals because of the fighting in the last two days,” he added on condition of anonymity.
“Nearly 40 of the wounded people are in a critical condition that needs medical treatment abroad.”
Saudi Arabia and eight fellow Sunni Arab countries launched the military operation in Yemen on Thursday after the Shiite Houthis and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh pushed into Aden.
Last month, Hadi took refuge in Aden after fleeing the rebel-held capital Sana’a. He later declared Aden a temporary capital for the country.
Hadi is now in Saudi Arabia, which shares a border of around 1,500 kilometres with impoverished Yemen.
The Saudis have vowed to press ahead with the bombing until Hadi is reinstated, raising the spectre of a wider conflict with Shiite Iran, widely understood to back the Houthis who control large parts of Yemen.
Tehran has condemned the Saudi-led intervention.
The Arab coalition has unleashed a series of airstrikes over the past few days against the Houthis’ northern heartland of Saada near the Saudi border.
At least 40 people were killed on Monday in an allied airstrike on a refugee camp in the north-western province of Hajah near Saada, an official said.
Around 200 others were wounded in the strike on the Mazraq refugee camp, Joel Millman, spokesman for the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said, citing reports from the agency’s staff in the area.
The camp houses nearly 5,000 people.
The Houthis are suspected of having moved anti-aircraft guns to the area, according to local officials.
Houthi politbureau member Ali al-Quhum claimed that hundreds of civilians were killed in at least four airstrikes mounted by allied warplanes on the camp.
“This is a brutal aggression on the Yemeni people,” he said. “I call on humanitarian organizations to expose the violations to which Yemenis are being subjected because of this indiscriminate bombardment.”
Saudis have repeatedly accused the Houthis of moving their military hardware into residential areas.
The allied jets on Monday mounted fresh strikes against Houthi targets in Sana’a including the presidential palace and military facilities.
There were no reports of potential casualties
Saudi Arabia has started a joint military exercise with its key ally Pakistan near the border with Yemen.
Major General Fares bin Abdullah, a senior Saudi commander, told Saudi state news agency SPA that the drills were part of a series of pre-planned exercises aimed at enhancing the kingdom’s military efficiency.