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Members of Yemen's parliament meet for first time during civil war

Rebel forces in Yemen created a 10-member governing council last week in the face of UN opposition
People hold a poster of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as they demonstrate outside parliament in Sanaa, Yemen (Reuters)

Members of Yemen's parliament convened in the capital Sanaa on Saturday for the first time since a civil war began almost two years ago, in a move aimed at bolstering the rebel Houthi movement and challenging the Saudi-backed exiled government.

The armed Houthis and their allies in the General People's Congress (GPC) party headed by powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh control Sanaa and have withstood thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his internationally recognized government view them as putschists after they took the capital by force in September 2014 and have warned them against seeking to legitimise their rule through parliament.

In a statement carried on the state news agency Saba, Hadi called the parliament session illegal and warned that MPs attending it could be prosecuted as criminals. Only 80 to 85 MPs attended, fewer than the required quorum of 151 of the 301 members, according to Al Arabiya.

After UN-backed peace talks to end the war collapsed last week, the Houthis and the GPC set up a governing council to rule the country despite UN and government opposition.

The assembly convened within earshot of bombings by Saudi-led warplanes on military bases several miles away.

Saudi-led coalition jets on Thursday pounded Shia rebel positions in and around Sanaa for a third consecutive day, as shelling from Yemen killed a woman in Saudi Arabia.

In the morning, coalition warplanes struck the al-Dailami airbase near Sanaa airport and a military school inside the Yemeni capital, the pro-rebel Saba news agency reported.

Military sources loyal to the Hadi government said the air raids targeted only military positions held by the Houthis and their allies, supporters of Saleh, who handed over power to Hadi in 2012 after a long period of turmoil in the country.

Saba said civilian homes were also struck, and reported other raids on the Houthi stronghold of Saada, a northern province near the border with Saudi Arabia.

It said Sanaa airport had been closed since the coalition on Tuesday launched a wave of air raids in and around the capital, for the first time in three months.

The raids had been halted as Kuwait hosted UN-brokered peace talks between and the Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthis and their allies.

But the UN suspended the talks last week after the rebels appointed their governing coalition.

In July the Houthis and their allies rejected a UN peace plan that called on them to withdraw from territory they had occupied and give up heavy weapons seized from the army.

The rebels said the plan did not meet their key demand for a unity government.

Rebels and pro-government forces clashed again in the Naham region north of Sanaa, where 22 rebels and four loyalists have been killed since Wednesday, a pro-government spokesman said.

Also on Thursday, a Saudi woman was killed and seven other people wounded by shelling from Yemen, the Saudi civil defence said.

The incident came hours after a civilian was killed and seven others wounded late Wednesday in the Saudi province of Hazan also in shelling from Yemen, it added.

The United Nations says more than 6,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the coalition air campaign began in March 2015.

The fighting has also driven 2.8 million people from their homes and left more than 80 percent of the population needing humanitarian aid.

Around 100 members of the Saudi forces and civilians have been killed in skirmishes, by artillery fire or landmines inside the kingdom's borders since the coalition launched its campaign.

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