Saudi-led airstrikes target Shiite rebels in Yemen

Ahmed al-Haj
Associated Press

Sanaa, Yemen — The Saudi-led coalition on Friday launched heavy airstrikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen, targeting camps and weapons depots in the rebel-held capital, as a U.N. agency said some 234 children were killed in violence over the past two months.

Residents of Sanaa awoke to the sound of explosions early Friday morning as warplanes targeted weapons caches in Noqum mountain, sending up bursts of flames and columns of smoke.

Airstrikes also targeted the rebels, known as Houthis, in their northern home base of Saada province. Witnesses described seeing Apache helicopters flying overhead that appeared to be targeting rebel vehicles.

The Houthis have occasionally carried out cross-border attacks from Saada, which borders Saudi Arabia. Yahia al-Qahtani, the spokesman for the Saudi civil defense authority in the southern Saudi border region of Jizan, said on Friday that a child was killed and three other children wounded when missiles from inside Yemen struck their village a day earlier.

More than a dozen soldiers and at least seven civilians have been killed in attacks by Houthi militiamen along the kingdom’s borders with Yemen since the beginning of Saudi-led offensive.

Yemen’s war pits forces loyal to the country’s exiled president against the Iranian-supported Houthis and allied military units. A Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes against the rebels on March 26.

In Geneva, Cécile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that at least 1,037 civilians, including 130 women and 234 children, have been killed between March 26 and May 20. An estimated 2,500 civilians have been injured and the cities of Saada and Aden — which was declared the temporarily capital of Yemen by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — have endured the most extensive damage to their infrastructure, she said.

The U.N. is planning to hold peace talks in Geneva at the end of May and the organization has urged all rival parties to participate. So far, the rebels have expressed support for the talks while the internationally recognized government-in-exile has said it would only participate if the rebels withdraw from cities they occupy — including the capital.