Sana’a: Saudi-led warplanes intensified their air strikes against Yemeni militiamen in the capital Wednesday, fuelling panic as political efforts to end a war that has displaced half a million people foundered.
The Arab coalition has waged an air campaign against the Iran-backed Shiite militiamen since March 26 in an effort to restore the authority of exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh.
After a five-day humanitarian ceasefire expired at the weekend, the Saudi-led coalition resumed bombing several cities including the capital, accusing the militiamen of having violated the truce.
Witnesses in militia-held Sana’a described Wednesday’s bombing as the most violent so far, prompting residents to flee.
Loud explosions ripped through Sana’a until the early hours as warplanes targeted militia-held arms depots for a second straight night, residents said.
“Sana’a witnessed during the night the most violent raids since the start of the bombing” by coalition warplanes, said Saleh Moqbel, one resident of the capital’s Old City.
Strikes since Tuesday have hit arms depots in hills overlooking Sana’a as well as the militia-held presidential complex, with explosions lighting up the skies, residents said.
The raids prompted many families to flee residential areas surrounding the hills and seek refuge elsewhere in the city, witnesses said.
“Some of these families were hosted by relatives, while others were forced to rent shelters, including garages, to spend the night,” said Hassan Al Amudi who lives in central Sana’a.
Hotel employee Ahmad Melhi told AFP that “since the start of the crisis the hotel had been completely empty. But today it is flooded with people from the Noqum and Fajj Attan neighbourhoods.”
In the central province of Ibb, witnesses reported seven coalition air strikes, mostly targeting a pro-militia army camp.
Other strikes targeted the militia stronghold of Amran province in north Yemen and Abyan province in the south.
Hopes faded for a speedy political breakthrough in the two-month conflict with a UN-sponsored peace conference originally set for next week put on hold because of the resumption in fighting.
A conference of Yemeni political factions held in Riyadh, meanwhile, vowed support for “resistance” forces battling militiamen.
Al Houthi militiamen have allied with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and have been locked in deadly clashes with pro-Hadi fighters across Yemen.
Iran, a key ally of Al Houthis, has demanded an end to the Saudi-led bombing, and said Riyadh was not a suitable location for peace talks.
The conflict has caused humanitarian chaos, with the United Nations saying more than half a million people have been displaced.