SANAA (Reuters) - At least 16 Yemeni civilians including ten people from a single family were killed in nationwide air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition on Saturday, medics in three provinces said.
Gulf Arab countries have stepped up their air attacks targeting the Shi‘ite Muslim Houthi movement allied to Iran after the group killed at least 60 Arab troops deployed to Yemen in a missile attack on their base last Friday.
The raids pummeled the Houthi-controled capital Sanaa and the southern city of Taiz, which is being fought over in heavy street battles between Houthi fighters and Gulf-backed Yemeni forces.
Two civilians were killed in the capital and ten people from one family died in Taiz. Eyewitnesses said the strikes appeared to target the houses of political leaders allied to the Houthis.
Four more people were killed near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia in the far northern province of Saada.
The Arab alliance has said it seeks to avoid civilian deaths in the five-month war aimed at restoring Yemen’s exiled government and warding off suspected Iranian influence in the Arab world.
Condemning the strikes as war crimes, the Houthis deny being beholden to Tehran and accuse the government and its Arab allies as pawns of the West.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in fighting and air strikes, and the conflict looks set to continue as Arab states have stationed thousands of troops in Yemen ahead of a planned push toward Sanaa.
Yemen’s warring factions will meet for peace talks in neighboring Oman next week, the United Nations and Yemeni officials said. The talks are the second major negotiations effort aimed at ending the war.
A drone attack killed four men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda in northern Yemen on Saturday, tribal sources said, as a U.S. campaign against the militants goes on despite the war.
Two missiles hit the men’s car, killing all of them, tribesmen in the province of al-Jawf said by telephone. The four men were not immediately identified.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of the war pitting Houthi militiamen against forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to grab territory and operate more openly.
The group has carried out attacks against the Yemeni state for years, plotted to blow up U.S.-bound airliners and claimed responsibility for January’s attack in Paris on a French magazine that killed 12 people.
The United States has kept up a drone campaign against the militants, although it evacuated the last of its military and intelligence personnel from Yemen in March. Its attacks have killed some of AQAP’s top leaders, including its chief, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, in June.
The United States has acknowledged using drones but declines to comment on specific attacks.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Ros Russell