Airstrikes pierce new Yemen truce following ground fighting

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Sanaa, Jul 11: A new truce in Yemen was pierced within an hour as Saudi-led airstrikes hit targets in the southwestern city of Taiz following reports of ground fighting, security officials said.

The UN-declared truce that began after midnight yesterday is meant to last through the end of the holy month of Ramadan and allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid for millions of people. The officials said three airstrikes came after Shiite rebels and their allied forces clashed with rivals who have held pockets of resistance against the rebels' control of Taiz.

Yemen

Witnesses reported the airstrikes. One airstrike targeted a military camp used by forces loyal to the rebels, while another hit a rebel convoy. Both sides exchanged blame for violating the truce. Rebel officials said their rivals were using the truce to advance in Taiz.

Fighters accused the rebels of trying to push them from the territories they hold. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to report to the media amid a tense truce. The UN Security Council welcomed the announcement of the humanitarian pause and urged all parties "to exercise restraint in cases of isolated violations and to avoid escalation."

The council also said "no party should take advantage of the pause to move weapons or seize territory." Council members urged all parties to facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Yemen.

The pause announced on Thursday comes just days after the UN warned that the Arab world's poorest country is "one step" from famine. Yemen relies on imports for the bulk of its food and fuel, but the coalition has imposed a near-complete air and sea blockade during the fighting.

The rebels want the blockade lifted completely. The UN this month declared its highest-level humanitarian emergency in Yemen on July 1.

The UN humanitarian office says 80 per cent of the population needs aid, and millions are close to famine. Yemen's exiled government had wanted the rebels to withdraw from the cities and towns they had overrun since September as a precondition to a truce, but it came under pressure to agree to a halt in violence immediately. 

AP

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