Fresh aid reaches Yemen capital as clashes rage in south

Yemeni supporters of the separatist Southern Movement stand face to face, with a tank in the background, in the city of Aden on April 6, 2015. AFP
The Red Cross on Saturday delivered a second planeload of aid to war-battered Yemen in as many days, as the Saudi-led coalition stepped up air raids on allies of Iran-backed rebels.
The aid is urgently needed for hundreds wounded in fighting between pro-government forces and the Shiite Huthi rebels, who are allies of troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Coalition warplanes on Saturday launched several raids in and around Sanaa, with at least 11 around Sanhan, Saleh\’s home town.
A raid on military targets in Amran province north of Sanaa killed eight rebels, medics said on the 18th day of the Saudi-led air campaign.
Fighting in and around the southern city of Aden since late Friday between rebels and pro-government forces has killed 42 people including three civilians, medics and military sources said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said its aircraft landed in Sanaa with medical equipment after weeks of intense fighting across the country.
"The new cargo is 35.6 tonnes, of which 32 tonnes is medical aid and the rest water purifying equipment, electric power generators and tents," ICRC spokeswoman Marie Claire Feghali said.
The Red Cross and the UN also sent planes to Sanaa on Friday, each carrying 16 tonnes of medicine and equipment, the first aid supplies to reach the capital since the air campaign began late last month.
Russia\’s news website reported that two Russian planes were unable to land in Sanaa on Saturday to evacuate hundreds of civilians after being denied coalition permission to enter Yemeni airspace.
More than two weeks of heavy bombardment against opponents of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and fighting between rival militias has prompted a UN call for a freeze in the violence.
UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, said an "immediate humanitarian pause in this conflict" was desperately needed to step up aid deliveries.
The World Health Organization says nearly 650 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded in the recent escalation in violence.
Yemen\’s second city Aden has seen some of the toughest fighting.
On Saturday, pro-Hadi forces ambushed rebels aboard a 30-vehicle convoy which tried to enter a neighbourhood where oil refineries are located, Hadi loyalists said.
Thirteen rebels and four loyalist forces were killed, they added.
Saturday\’s air raids also destroyed a police station near Sanhan where rebels stockpiled weapons, and they also targeted a special forces camp loyal to Saleh in the central province of Baida, witnesses said.
In Riyadh, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told journalists there had been 1,200 coalition air strikes between March 26 and midday Saturday.
He said the raids had neutralised the air and ballistic capabilities of the rebels and their allies, and "will continue".
Assiri also told reporters: "At the appropriate time, we will take action on the ground."
Asked about reports that two members of Iran\’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps had been captured, he said he had "no confirmation of such information".
Elsewhere, Sunni tribesmen who support Hadi ambushed and killed 18 rebels on the road between Taez and Lahj as they headed for Aden, military sources said.
The fighting has been so fierce in south Yemen that hundreds of civilians have fled across the Gulf of Aden.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR says at least 900 people, most of them Somalis, but also including Yemenis, have arrived in the Horn of Africa in the past 10 days.
Officials in Somalia said Saturday that more than 400 Somalis, many of them women, children and the elderly, have returned to their war-torn home country as security in Yemen worsens.
Yemen, strategically located near key shipping routes and bordering oil-rich Saudi Arabia, was plunged into chaos last year when the Huthis seized Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee to Aden and then Riyadh.
Elsewhere, the official Saudi news agency SPA said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Riyadh on Saturday.
A diplomatic source said he will discuss the Yemen crisis in talks on Sunday and also voice support for Hadi.
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