ADEN: Fierce clashes raged Monday between rebels and loyalists in southern Yemen, leaving more than 140 dead in 24 hours, as the Red Cross faced delays to urgently needed aid deliveries.
Relief workers have warned of a dire situation in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, where a Saudi-led coalition is waging an air war on the Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels.
The bloodiest fighting occurred between rebels and loyalists of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in the main southern city of Aden, officials said.
Fifty-three people, more than a third of those slain in the past 24 hours, were killed as rebels tried to seize a port in the city, which sits on an extinct volcano jutting out into the sea.
At least 19 Huthis and 15 pro-Hadi militiamen were killed overnight in the town of Daleh, north of Aden, officials said, and seven other people died in the southern province of Abyan.
Pro-Hadi fighters have laid siege in Abyan to the base of a renegade army brigade loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is accused of backing the Huthis.
Ten rebels were killed in coalition air strikes that hit Al-Anad airbase near Abyan and a military camp in Lahj, while many more died in Shabwa province.
Hadi, considered by the UN to be Yemen’s legitimate leader, took refuge in Aden in February after the Huthis, who hail from the mountainous north, seized power in Sanaa.
Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia last month as rebels advanced on his southern stronghold, prompting the military campaign by the Saudi-led coalition, now in its 12th day.
Yemen, strategically located near key shipping routes and bordering oil-rich Saudi Arabia, is sinking deeper into a multi-sided civil conflict.
The fighting has drawn in an array of armed groups including the Huthis, pro-Hadi militia, army units loyal to Saleh, southern separatists, Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda militants.
– Aid flight ‘problems’ –
The Red Cross has appealed for an immediate truce to facilitate aid deliveries and has called for all land, air and sea routes to be immediately opened to allow in 48 tons of medical supplies the organization has ready to treat up to 3,000 wounded.