Riyadh: Yemeni political factions voiced support Tuesday for Saudi-led forces fighting Iran-backed militamen, calling for safe zones in the country allowing the exiled government to resume its duties.

In a show of support to the operation, a gathering of dozens of Yemeni politicians and tribal figures ended in Riyadh on Tuesday with a declaration that called for the formation of special forces to protect Yemen’s cities.

“We support this resistance to go on fighting (militia) forces,” exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi told delegates at the close of the three-day meeting.

He was referring to the Iran-backed Al Houthis - who boycotted the Riyadh talks - and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A closing statement at the conference sought the quicker delivery of supplies to pro-government forces including “logistical equipment and weapons”.

The conference attendees suggested an Arab peacekeeping force to secure Yemen’s major cities, with UN Security Council approval, Transport Minister Bader Ba-Salama said.

Hadi said “dialogue is the only way to take Yemen out of its deadlock”, but added that any talks with rebels must take into account Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Al Houthis to relinquish territory they have seized.

The coalition carried out the heaviest airstrikes near the Yemeni capital since the expiration of a five-day truce with Al Houthis, hitting weapons depots in the mountains surrounding Sana’a and shaking several residential areas on Tuesday.

The bombardment began shortly after midnight Monday, with airstrikes targeting rebel-held military depots in the mountains of Fag Atan and Noqom, where missiles, tanks and artillery are kept.

Meanwhile, actviists on board a Yemen-bound Iranian aid ship due to arrive in the port of Hodaida on Thursday have said that it is not being escorted by Iranian warships. Iranian officials have said they would not let Saudi-led forces inspect the Iran Shahed.

Christoph Horstel, a German political activist on board the vessel, said it was not being escorted. “It is a purely humanitarian mission. There is no ship accompanying us - let alone any Iranian warships,” he said.