SANAA: Saudi-led coalition air strikes resumed against rebel positions in Yemen’s south after a five-day ceasefire expired late Sunday, despite a UN envoy’s calls for an extension of the truce.
The humanitarian ceasefire that began late on Tuesday expired at 2000 GMT Sunday with no word from the coalition, which had repeatedly accused the rebels of “violations”, on where the truce stands.
An hour after the deadline, air raids hit the rebel-held presidential palace in main southern city Aden as well as a base of the pro-rebel special forces in the same city, military officials and witnesses said.
The raids came despite calls by UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to extend the ceasefire.
“I call on all parties to renew their commitment to this truce for five more days at least,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said earlier in Riyadh.
“This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire.”
His appeal followed clashes between rebels and pro-government forces across south Yemen on Saturday despite the truce, which has largely held since starting on Tuesday at 2000 GMT.
The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the UN envoy met Saudi chief of staff Lieutenant General Abdulrahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan and discussed “humanitarian aid efforts” in Yemen.
Aid groups have called for a lasting truce in the impoverished country, where a Saudi-led regional coalition has waged an air war on Iran-backed Huthis and their allies since late March.
Yemeni political parties began talks Sunday in the Saudi capital aimed at finding a solution to the crisis.
But the Huthis stayed away from the meeting of some 400 delegates including President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh.
Hadi repeated accusations that the rebels had staged a “coup”.
“We are trying to regain our nation” from militias backed by “external” forces, he said in a reference to Iran, which has denied arming the rebels.
An Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen in defiance of US warnings has entered the Gulf of Aden and is expected to dock on Thursday, media in Tehran reported.
Its mission has been overshadowed by US calls for it to head to a UN emergency relief hub in Djibouti instead of the Yemeni port of Hodeida.
Clashes raged overnight Saturday in the central city of Taez between Huthis — supported by troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh — and pro-Hadi forces.
The rebels, who seized Sanaa in September and have since swept across many other regions, bombed a village south of Taez, killing 14 civilians, a local official said.
Sporadic clashes also continued in Aden, the scene of fierce fighting since rebels advanced on the southern port in late March after Hadi took refuge there.