Yemen's capital sees heaviest airstrikes since truce expired

Last Updated 20 May 2015, 01:57 IST

The Saudi-led coalition today carried out the heaviest airstrikes on the Yemeni capital since a five-day truce with Yemen's Shiite rebels expired earlier this week, hitting weapons depots in the mountains surrounding Sanaa and sending dozens of families fleeing their homes in panic.

The bombardment began shortly after midnight last night, with airstrikes targeting rebel-held military depots in the mountains of Fag Atan and Noqom, where missiles, tanks and artillery are kept, the residents said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly struck the two sites since launching the air campaign against the Iranian-backed rebels, known as Houthis, on March 26.But today's assault was the heaviest since Sunday's expiration of a five-day humanitarian truce, which was repeatedly violated.

By sunset, a fresh wave of airstrikes sent fire and smoke rising from the mountains around the capital, Sanaa. Dozens of families living close to the bombed sites hurriedly loaded their belongings onto vehicles and left in search of safer areas.

Missiles hit several Houthi positions on Tuesday in their strongholds in the northern provinces of Saada and Hajjah, as well as a gathering of fighters allied with the Houthis in the city of Ibb, south of Sanaa. The rebels and their allies were also hit in the western city of Taiz and the southern city of Aden, near its airport, as well as in the eastern province of Marib.

Airstrikes also targeted a house owned by ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the Sanaa suburb of Sanhan, flattening it. Saleh's whereabouts are not known but his loyalists in the country's fragmented army have joined ranks with the Houthis.

That alliance paved the way for the rebel takeover of Sanaa last September and boosted the rebels' ability to advance into southern cities in an effort to expand their territorial gains.

Fearing more airstrikes, residents in areas around Saleh's other houses, such as in Sanaa's al-Dajaj district, packed up and left.

"Our house is just next to Saleh's house and most of the people have left. Now the district is like a ghost city," said Fathi al-Udini who also left with his family, fleeing al-Dajaj.

Meanwhile, the Houthis fired Katyusha rockets at the Saudi border region of Najran from their stronghold of Saada on Tuesday, according to tribesmen in the region. Nearby, the adjacent border area of al-Jouf province saw heavy clashes between

Houthi fighters and tribesmen believed to be backed and armed by Saudi Arabia. The battles are meant to open a new frontline with Saada to distract the Houthis from shelling Saudi territories, the tribesmen said. 

(Published 20 May 2015, 01:56 IST)

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