05/08/2015, 00.00
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Riyadh proposes a humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen whilst bombing Houthi rebels

The Saudis propose a five-day truce, but continue to lead the coalition in air strikes. According to some, Riyadh is preparing a post-Assad Syria by trying to unite the fractious opposition.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After proposing a five-day ceasefire to bring aid to the war-weary population of Yemen, Saudi Arabia launched air strikes yesterday afternoon.

Saudi-led warplanes struck key Houthi rebels targets in their northern stronghold of Saada, including two control centres, a communication complex and a landmine factory.  

The Saudi-led coalition, which has waged six weeks of air strikes in support of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, also destroyed other rebel positions in Saada province, which borders Saudi Arabia, the SPA news agency said.

Saudi leaders warned the Shia group that it had crossed a "red line" in shelling populated border areas in the kingdom.

The new escalation in fighting comes just a few hours after Riyadh proposed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid to war-weary Yemenis.

However, on Wednesday, a statement by 22 aid agencies working in Yemen said a humanitarian pause would "not alleviate the humanitarian impacts of the current conflict".

The charities - who say their work is being hampered by a lack of fuel in Yemen - called instead for a permanent end to the fighting, and renewed diplomatic talks.

Conversely, for the Saudis, negotiations are linked to rebel "cooperation:" Houthis must lay down their arms and stop fighting. The United States has also called for a ceasefire, urging the Houthis to accept the proposal.

In January, hostilities broke out between Yemen’s Sunni rulers, backed by Saudi Arabia, and pro-Iranian Shia Houthi rebels.

Since 19 March, the Saudis have led a coalition in air strikes against the rebels. According to United Nations reports, more than 1,400 people have been killed and almost 6,000 injured.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia is also active in the Syrian conflict, trying to secure the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and set plans for the future of that country.

According to some sources, the Saudis want to bring together the many factions that make up the anti-Assad opposition in order “to come up with a road map for the transitional period after Assad's fall."

Local political experts report that this anti-government coalition would not include jihadist groups like the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State group (which is reportedly funded by Saudi and Qatari sources).

In the coming weeks, a conference is planned for "All of the political and military opposition, inside and outside Syria". Asked by journalists, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said he had no information on the topic.

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