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Yemen strikes aim for rebel retreat

Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until Shiite rebels there "withdraw and surrender their weapons," a summit of Arab leaders has decided.

A Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on Thursday, saying it was targeting rebels known as Houthis and their allies, which includes forces loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

At the summit, held in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby read a final communique outlining the leaders' views.

"Yemen was on the brink of the abyss, requiring effective Arab and international moves after all means of reaching a peaceful resolution have been exhausted to end the Houthi coup and restore legitimacy," he said.

The Houthis began their offensive in September, seizing capital Sanaa and later holding embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest.

The rebels ultimately took over government in Yemen and forced Mr Hadi to flee the country in recent days.

Speaking at the summit yesterday, Mr Hadi directly accused Iran of being behind the Houthi offensive, raising the spectre of a regional conflict. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though the Islamic Republic has provided humanitarian and other aid.

Now in its fourth day, the Saudi-led airstrike campaign has pushed Houthi rebels out of contested air bases and destroyed any jet fighters remaining in Yemen, Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed bin Hasan Asiri said.

The strikes also continued to target Scud missiles in Yemen, leaving most of their launching pads "devastated", according to remarks carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has dispatched a plane to the Yemeni city of Hodeida, hoping to evacuate about 500 citizens gathered there, said Shujaat Azim, an adviser to Pakistan's prime minister.

He told state-run Pakistan Television more flights would follow as those controlling Yemen's airports allowed them.

Pakistan says about 3,000 of its citizens live in Yemen.


From Belfast Telegraph