May 3, 2015 / 10:54 AM / 3 years ago

Saudi-led alliance hits airbase in Yemen's Sanaa: residents

ADEN/CAIRO (Reuters) - Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition struck Sanaa’s al Dulaimi military airbase overnight, residents of the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital said on Sunday.

Houthi militants ride in a patrol truck in Sanaa May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

The aircraft also targeted a camp of forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of the Houthis, in Arhab district north of the city, the residents added. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes in Yemen since late March against the Houthis and their allies, whose rapid advances forced Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government into exile in Riyadh.

Iran, which backs the Houthis, does not recognize Hadi and has portrayed the air strikes as an intervention in Yemen’s internal affairs.

Last week, Saudi Arabia said coalition jets destroyed the runway of Yemen’s Sanaa airport to prevent an Iranian cargo plane from landing there.

In the southern city of Aden, fighting continued in the central districts of Mualla and Khor Maksar, near the main commercial port, as well as in the city’s north, around a military camp and the airport, where there have been fierce clashes for three days, local sources said.

Sources in the southern resistance, which is fighting the Houthis and Saleh’s forces, said four of their number were killed in clashes on Saturday to the death of 15 members of the Iran-allied militia.

However, Houthi reinforcements had arrived from al-Dhalea and Abyan, the sources in the resistance said. Hotels in the Mansoura district had received refugees from Mualla and Khor Maksar.

Fighting around Yemen has killed more than 1,000 people, including an estimated 551 civilians since the bombings started on March 26, the United Nations said on April 24. Its children’s agency UNICEF said at least 115 children were among the dead.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and arch Sunni Muslim regional rival of Shi‘ite Muslim Iran, says it was concerned for its own security and Yemen’s stability after Shi‘ite Houthi forces captured the capital and began advancing across the country, on its southern border, in September.

The air strikes have increased regional tension, with the commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, comparing Saudi Arabia to Tehran’s arch-enemy, Israel.

The Houthis allege Hadi fostered Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and corrupt officials. Hadi, who fought al Qaeda before fleeing the Houthi advance, says the Islamist militant group is as much a threat to Yemen as it had always been.

Reporting By Mohamed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashef; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by William Maclean and Raissa Kasolowsky

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