Fighting and new air strikes mark next phase in Yemen

Houthis protest in Sanaa after Saudi-led coalition targeted their positions despite announcing end to air campaign.

Protests, continued fighting and fresh air strikes have marked the start of the Saudi-led coalition’s new phase of operations in Yemen.

Thousands of Houthis fighters and their supporters took to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, on Wednesday to protest against the nearly month-long military offensive.

“We took to the street to condemn shelling [of] the civilians, bombarding [of] the residential areas,” said Jamal al-Heefi, a Yemeni army solder loyal to the rebels and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“We are telling them, ‘shame on you’. Why don’t you face us on the ground? Why don’t you fight like men? We will always face you as the Yemenis are solid like rocks.”

Fresh air strikes were conducted on Wednesday, hours after Saudi Arabia said it had ended the air campaign against Houthis who forced out Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in February.

The deputy governor of Aden, Nayef al-Bakri, told Al Jazeera that an air raid targeted tanks used by the Houthis and their allied forces in the southern port city.

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Air strikes were also reported in the central city of Taiz, where Houthis seized the headquarters of a brigade loyal to the government.

The headquarters of the 35th Armoured Brigade on the city’s northern outskirts fell after heavy fighting on Wednesday which left “dozens dead and wounded”, an army officer told the AFP news agency from inside the base.

Continued ground fighting

Also on Wednesday, witnesses reported ground fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in Aden and the city of Lahj, the capital of Huta, and the southern town of Daleh.

The ongoing fighting came after the Saudi-led coalition said its military operation “Decisive Storm” had ended by midnight on Tuesday and that a new campaign aimed at protecting civilians and preventing Houthi fighters from operating had begun.

Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, the coalition’s spokesperson, said the coalition had achieved its military goals in Yemen and a new operation, called “Renewal of Hope”, would aim to protect civilians and combat “terrorism”.

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The Saudi ambassador to the United States, however, warned that his country will continue to respond to “aggressive” moves made by the Houthis.

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Specifically, Adel al-Jubeir warned that the Houthis were moving into Aden from three fronts and that Riyadh would respond to a request from “the legitimate government of Yemen to prevent this happening”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Tuesday that violence between March 19 and April 17 had killed 944 people and wounded 3,487, and warned that the impoverished nation’s health services were on the brink of collapse.

The WHO said the number of patients able to access health facilities had plummeted since the escalation of hostilities, with a 40 percent drop in the number of daily consultations.

Prices of essential medicines have increased by more than 300 percent, and the shortage of water has increased the risk of diarrhoea and other diseases and is affecting basic hygiene in hospitals and clinics.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies