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Saudi-led coalition bombs Yemen rebels as truce expires

Saudi-led coalition warplanes resumed strikes on rebel positions in southern Yemen on Monday after a five-day ceasefire expired, jeopardising efforts to deliver desperately needed aid. The humanitarian truce ended at 2000 GMT Sunday despite calls from a UN envoy and relief agencies for an extension. An hour later, air raids hit the rebel-held presidential palace in the main southern city Aden as well as a base of the pro-rebel special forces there, military officials and witnesses said. The coalition also targeted rebel positions in Aden’s neighbourhoods of Tawahi and Khor Maksar, said the sources, without providing details on casualties. The Saudi-led regional coalition has waged an air war on the Iran-backed Shiite Huthis rebels and their allies since late March in an effort to restore the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. The new strikes came despite calls by UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to prolong the ceasefire. “This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire,” he said Sunday in the Saudi capital. A Western diplomat in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia has accused the Huthis of using the ceasefire to position long-range artillery, rockets and other weapons close to its border. “They say this is a direct violation of the ceasefire agreement,” the diplomat said.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said Saudi forces fired artillery at Huthi positions over the border in Yemen. It said the rebels hit a crossing point in Najran province. Yemeni political parties began talks Sunday in the Saudi capital but the Huthis are boycotting the three-day meeting, insisting the talks be held in Yemen. However, Yemen’s Vice-President Khaled Bahah told AFP that he expected the Huthis would attend future talks.
Several representatives of the General People’s Congress party of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is accused of backing the rebels, did take part. Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh, on Sunday repeated accusations that the rebels had staged a “coup”.