Yemen air raids kill 16 rebels on eve of campaign's second anniversary
Sixteen rebels have been killed and 24 wounded in 24 hours of air raids by a Saudi-led coalition targeting the Huthi fighters in Yemen, a military official and medics said Saturday.
The strikes came on the eve of Sunday's second anniversary of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, an intervention which has has seen the UK and US criticised for providing military and logistical support.
Since the start of the conflict in Yemen, 10,000 people have been killed and millions left without access to vital infrastructure, clean water or electricity, according to the United Nations. Campaigners say the real death toll is higher.
The Huthi rebels were killed in air strikes on an air base and arms depot in the east of the rebel-held Hudaida province since Friday, the Saudi official said.
A source in the coalition supporting President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi's government told AFP that Hudaida was one of the areas being targeted as part of ongoing military operations on areas under rebel control.
The dead and wounded were transferred to al-Alfi military hospital and al-Thawra hospital in the Huthi-controlled city of Hudaida, medics at the hospitals said.
The Red Sea port city is a key transit point for desperately needed imports into war-torn Yemen, where fighting has escalated since the March 2015 military intervention of the coalition against the Shiite rebels.
A boat carrying refugees was hit by an air strike earlier this month off the Hudaida port. Forty-two people were killed, most of them Somali refugees.
The Saudi-led coalition denied accusations it was involved in the attack and called on the United Nations to supervise Hudaida port.
The UN has rejected the request on the grounds that parties involved in the Yemen war have a responsibility to protect civilians.
Yemen's conflict has steadily worsened since 2011, after protests led to the resignation of then president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The United Nations has repeatedly warned of the risk of famine in Yemen, where ports are blockaded by the Saudi-led coaltion and more than 18 million people require food aid.
More than seven million "are hungry and do not know where their next meal is coming from," the UN emergency relief coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, told the UN Security Council earlier this month Those going hungry in Yemen had increased by three million since January, he said.
Since the start of Saudi involvement the British government has faced criticism for licensing more than $4bn worth of arms to Saudi forces, including aircraft, helicopters, drones and ammunition and armoured vehicles.
This figure is dwarfed by US arms exports to Saudi Arabia, but Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both linked British-made weapons to attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: "For two years now, Saudi forces have unleashed a brutal humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. The response from Whitehall has been to keep arming and supporting the Saudi regime, irrespective of the destruction it has caused.
"Ten thousand people have been killed, yet the message being sent out is that their lives are less important than profits for arms companies."