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39 dead in Yemen since Saudi-led strikes began: Officials

At least 39 civilians have been killed in more than 24 hours of Saudi-led air strikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen, health ministry officials said on Friday.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2015 15:01 IST
Yemen

Yemenis-stand-at-the-site-of-a-Saudi-air-strike-against-Huthi-rebels-near-Sanaa-Airport-on-March-26-2015-which-killed-at-least-13-people-AFP-Photo

At least 39 civilians have been killed in more than 24 hours of Saudi-led air strikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen, health ministry officials said on Friday.

Twelve of the victims were killed when a raid against a military base north of Sanaa hit surrounding residential areas, officials from the rebel-controlled ministry told AFP.

Witnesses said warplanes targeted Al-Samaa base, which is used by army units believed to take orders from their former commander Ahmed Ali Saleh.

Saleh is the son of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is accused of allying with the Huthi rebels against President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Strikes at dawn

At dawn on Friday, three air strikes hit the presidential compound in south Sanaa which the rebels seized last month, witnesses said.

Overnight raids targeted another army brigade loyal to Saleh in the eastern province of Marib, tribal sources said.

A military official told AFP that Saudi-led coalition jets also bombed a large arms depot in a third army camp used by forces loyal to the former strongman.

The official spoke of "dozens" of casualties at the camp, located in Sanaa's southern outskirts, but the information could not be independently verified.

Earlier, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Riyadh on Thursday, with officials saying he was on his way to Egypt to take part in a two-day Arab League summit at the weekend.

"Dangerous Intervention"

The White House, meanwhile, voiced concerns about "reports of Iranian flow of arms into Yemen" as the Saudi-led coalition declared its first wave of strikes "successful" and vowed to prevent supplies reaching the rebels.

Saudi Arabia launched the air campaign with pre-dawn strikes on Thursday, saying it had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies.

The Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, said the coalition stood ready to do "whatever it takes" to protect Hadi's government.

On the eve of the Egypt summit, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi also declared full support for the strikes following a "coup".

But Iran reacted furiously, condemning the intervention as "a dangerous step" that violated "international responsibilities and national sovereignty".

President Hassan Rouhani said it amounted to "military aggression" and "condemned all military intervention in the internal affairs of independent nations".

Yemen has been gripped by growing turmoil since the Huthis launched a power takeover in Sanaa in February.

The Saudi-led intervention triggered a sharp rise in world oil prices on fears the conflict could threaten supplies.