Houthis, tribesmen battle in central Yemen, 15 killed


Heavy fighting between Iranian-allied Houthi militia and local tribesmen killed at least 15 people in Yemen’s oil-producing Marib province and an air strike targeted the home of a senior Houthi official, residents and tribal and medical sources said.

Yemeni Vice President Khaled Bahah had called on the Houthis on Monday to heed a U.N. Security Council demand for an end to fighting. The conflict has pushed Yemen into a humanitarian “catastrophe”, according to the Red Cross.

Houthis seized the capital Sanaa last September, demanding a more inclusive government and crackdown on graft. Talks with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi collapsed and he fled into exile. Chaos set in as Houthi forces swept southwards, fighting loyalist army units, regional tribes and al Qaeda militants.

Top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, rattled by what it sees as expanding Iranian influence in the region, has been leading a Gulf Arab coalition in waging air strikes on Houthi targets since late March. Riyadh announced a halt to its campaign last week, but fighting has intensified again since Sunday.

In Sanaa, airport officials said that Saudi-led warplanes had struck a civilian aircraft operated by Yemeni Felix Airways, setting it ablaze, as well as a cargo plane. The runway was also damaged in the air raid, the officials said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Saudi-led jets bombed a private villa that nearby residents said belonged to Abdullah Yahya Hakim, a senior Houthi official who was among a number of officials blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council in November.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes on the airport or Hakim’s residence.

Local residents further reported heavy clashes overnight in Marib province east of Sanaa, in the major city of Taiz in central Yemen, and in the southern port city of Aden.

At least 15 people were killed in the district of Sirwah and around Marib city, the sources said, as tribesmen allied with Hadi tried to stop Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh from advancing on the provincial capital.

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