Cairo: Gulf State jets pounded the Yemen capital yesterday (Sunday) in an escalation of their air strike campaign that was seen as retaliation for the massacre of dozens of Emirati troops last week.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted military positions belonging to the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s former president, who have jointly seized swathes of the country from government control this year.
Residents said the air strikes had targeted buildings in Sana’a previously seized by the Houthis and used as headquarters, including the Saudi and Emirati embassies.
“The Houthis and Saleh troops are taking headquarters in civilian buildings to use civilians as human shields,” said resident Abdul Rahman. “While we’ve heard the sound of the blasts continuing for three days, we don’t know for sure what’s going. The city is being dismembered.”
Yesterday’s air strikes on Sana’a mark the latest intensification of a war that has killed more than 4,500 people, devastated Yemen’s already-crumbling infrastructure, and called its future as a unified state into question.
The increased air strikes over Sana’a began on Saturday, killing at least 24 members of two families, according to local medical sources.
The attacks appeared to be a response to a Houthi attack on Friday on a base filled with troops loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Forty-five Emirati soldiers, five Bahrainis, 10 Saudis and four Yemenis were killed, marking the heaviest losses suffered by the Saudi-led alliance since air strikes aimed at restoring Mr Hadi to power began in March.
Local doctors said yesterday that a maternity and children’s hospital that serves an estimated three million people had been damaged in the renewed bombing, with patients trapped inside. Photographs from inside the Al Sabeen Hospital showed shattered glass and equipment lying around incubators.
Doctors had warned in late August that war had pushed the facility the facility to breaking point, drained of supplies including anesthetic, blood transfusion tests and valium.
Yesterday, the hospital appealed to international organisations to help evacuate its patients.
The Saudi-led coalition says it does not target civilian facilities. However, human rights groups say they have documented a pattern of air strikes hitting densely populated civilian areas without an obvious military target nearby.
Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels have launched their own campaign to shell cities under government control, such as Taiz.
Abdul Rahman, whose family live in Taiz, said: “Taiz is facing indiscriminate bombing targeting the houses of civilians. The bombardment has been going on for 10 days. The casualties can’t be evacuated.”
“Troops are bombarding us and we are caught in the cross fire.”
Yemen’s cash-strapped government is now under pressure from fighters who say they have defended their cities without pay.
Yesterday, hundreds of pro-government security forces rallied in front of the governor’s office in the port city of Aden, demanding unpaid wages.
The troops had defected from Saleh’s Special Security Forces in March and helped push the rebels out of the city. The protesters said Yemen’s minister of interior and Aden city officials have not fulfilled promises to compensate them for the risks they took and their continued service.
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