Heavy clashes kill at least 38 people in Yemen southern towns

Friday 24/04/2015
Huthi escalation

TAEZ (Yemen) - At least 38 people were killed in Yemen on Saturday as fighting raged in southern towns between rebels and loyalists of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, local officials said.
At least seven Hadi loyalists and 22 Huthi Shiite rebels were killed in dawn clashes in the town of Daleh, north of the main southern city of Aden, an official said.
Pro-Hadi militiamen destroyed two rebel tanks, three troop carriers and an armoured vehicle, the official said.
Farther east, in Loder, loyalist militiamen killed nine rebels in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, a government official in the town said.
There were also heavy clashes in Aden itself, as Saudi-led warplanes kept up strikes on rebel positions despite the coalition's announcement on Tuesday that it was halting the bombing campaign.
Targets included the rebel-held presidential palace, which was Hadi's last refuge before he fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia last month, military officials said.
Coalition warplanes also bombed the rebel-held Al-Anad air base north of Aden, which housed US troops supporting a long-running drone war against Al-Qaeda before the fighting forced their withdrawal.
There was also fighting late on Friday in the eastern province of Marib, home to some of Yemen's most important oil fields, army officers and witnesses said.
Loyalist troops at a base in the provincial capital shelled rebel positions in the nearby Sarwah district, where clashes raged around Yemen's main oil export pipeline.
The 435-kilometre (270-mile) line links Marib's Safir oil fields with the Ras Isa terminal on Yemen's Red Sea coast and control of it has been a key goal for the rebels and their allies.
"The Huthi rebels and forces loyal to (former president Ali Abdullah) Saleh sent reinforcements from (the rebel-controlled capital) Sanaa," an army officer said.
The persistent fighting comes despite mounting calls for dialogue to end a conflict that the United Nations says has killed more than 1,000 people since late March, at least 115 of them children.
The Huthi rebels, who have overrun large parts of the country and forced Hadi to flee overseas, have demanded a complete end to a month of Saudi-led air strikes against them as a condition for UN-sponsored talks.
Former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who still holds sway over army units allied with the Shiite rebels, late on Friday urged the Huthis to heed UN demands to withdraw from territory they have seized.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also called on the anti-government forces to enter into political dialogue to end a conflict that the UN says has killed more than 1,000 people since late March.
"This has to be a two-way street," Kerry told reporters, adding: "We need the Huthi and we need those that can influence them to make sure that they are prepared to try to move... to the negotiating table."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced plans to appoint Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as his new envoy to Yemen after the previous pointman lost the confidence of Gulf countries.
The appointment becomes official on Monday if no objections are raised by the 15-member council.