Saudi-led warplanes have launched deadly air strikes in Yemen despite a call by Houthi fighters for a halt to the raids as a condition for UN-sponsored peace talks.
Defence Ministry officials told Al Jazeera on Thursday that 11 air strikes struck Houthi targets in Ibb province, while four hit Lahij, three hit the eastern province of Marib, six hit Yemen’s third largest city of Taiz and several hit a rebel-held airbase in the western city of Hodeida.
At least 23 Houthis were reportedly killed in air strikes in the southern town of Ad Dali’ as coalition raids continued to target the group’s positions, striking schools and public buildings held by the group.
In the flashpoint city of Aden, where clashes between Houthis and local residents have intensified, a pro-government military official said “heavy” air strikes struck Houthi gatherings.
Meanwhile, medics in the city told the AFP news agency that six people, including civilians, were killed in clashes, while some 56 others were injured, including two medics whose ambulance came under fire from the Houthis.
Despite the ongoing violence, the Houthis pressed for a complete halt to the raids on Thursday calling for the country’s warring parties to return to the negotiating table.
“We demand an end to the aggression against Yemen and the lifting of the blockade, to resume political dialogue… under the sponsorship of the United Nations,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said.
However, Yemen’s foreign minister, Riyadh Yassine, rejected the call, saying there would be no talks unless the Shia fighters “surrender”.
“There will be no talks at the present time as long as the Houthis and the militias of Ali Abdullah Saleh continue the crime against the Yemeni people and until they put their weapons aside and surrender,” Yassine said.
Army units loyal to Saleh have sided with the Houthis in the fight against the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Houthis request came as the UN said peace talks aimed at ending the conflict were “inevitable” and behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts could bring results in coming weeks, including a possible UN-hosted conference.
Paolo Lembo, the UN resident coordinator in Yemen, told the Associated Press news agency that all sides “are aware that there is no other solution” than a political settlement, but that fighting would likely continue for some time.
Lembo, who oversees some 1,000 UN staff in Yemen, said the country had been hit by more than 4,000 air strikes since the Saudi-led air campaign began March 26.
He said close to 1,100 people had been killed, and that some 150,000 had been displaced.