Saudi-led coalition hits food factory, killing 14 civilians

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition bombed a food factory in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa early on Tuesday, killing 14 civilians working on an overnight shift, according to a factory official and medics.

Five women were among those killed in what effectively was the resumption of heavy bombardment by the Saudi-led alliance targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels and allied forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted president. The resumption comes after U.N. peace talks on Yemen collapsed over the weekend in Kuwait.

The airstrikes also signal the end of a fragile truce declared by the United Nations in April to pave the way for peace talks.

The conflict in Yemen pits the internationally-recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his allies, backed by the Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, against Shiite rebels known as Houthis who overran and captured Sanaa in September 2014.

Since the Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes against the Houthis, the war has claimed 9,000 lives, displaced some 2.4 million people and pushed the Arab world’s already impoverished country to the verge of famine.

The bombing of the factory — located in western Sanaa — is one of series of airstrikes that rocked the capital and at least five other provinces, presumably targeting suspected rebel positions such as barracks housing Houthis and their allies, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces.

According to medics and the factory official, a large hangar used by the al-Aqel food company in Sanaa was hit in one of the overnight airstrikes.

Photographs posted by activists on social media show torn and charred bodies at the location. The same factory was hit in airstrikes in January, though there are no visible Houthi camps or barracks in the vicinity of the factory. The nearest rebel post is nearly 1.5 kilometers (mile) away.

The factory official and the medics spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution by the Houthis.

Yemen’s SABA news agency, which is now under Houthi control, said dozens of airstrikes pounded Sanaa, the Houthis’ northern stronghold of Saada, the western cities of Taiz and Jouf, and the Red Sea ports of Makha and Houdeida over the past 24 hours.

In the mountainous region of Nihm, east of Sanaa, forces loyal to Hadi’s government escalated fighting with Houthi militias and allied forces, as part of a new campaign supported by the Saudi-led coalition to seize Sanaa, now under Houthi control. Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Maqdishi, the army chief of staff loyal to Hadi’s government, urged civilians to stay away from Houthi positions.

In the past three days, security and medical officials said the fighting has claimed the lives of dozens of fighters from both sides, in the region which is only 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Sanaa. They said that relief workers have been unable to retrieve the bodies of fighters who were killed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

UNICEF said on Tuesday that four children were reportedly killed and three others wounded in fighting on Saturday.

“Children are paying the heaviest price of the conflict in Yemen,” the agency said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the conflict, UNICEF said that a total of 1,121 children have been killed and another 1,650 injured. “The actual numbers are likely to be much higher,” the agency said.

UNICEF was referring to reports of killings of nine civilians on Saturday.

The Saudi-led coalition has also closed the airspace around Sanaa, suspending flights to and from the airport, and preventing a Houthi rebel delegation from making its way back to Yemen after the talks ended without progress in Kuwait, according to Houthis’ spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam.

Since the start of two-year war, the Saudi-led coalition has controlled of the airspace over neighboring Yemen.

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