SAUDI STRIKES DAM­AGE YE­MEN AIR­PORT

Bomb­ing of the Sana fa­cil­ity is blow to hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and evac­u­a­tion ef­forts.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Zaid al-Alayaa and Laura King laura.king@la­times.com Twit­ter: @lau­rak­ingLAT Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Al-Alayaa re­ported from Sana and Times staff writer King from Cairo.

SANA, Ye­men — A wave of Saudi-led airstrikes in Ye­men se­ri­ously dam­aged Sana’s in­ter­na­tional air­port on Tues­day, deal­ing a blow to al­ready fal­ter­ing ef­forts to bring in des­per­ately needed hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and ar­range evac­u­a­tion flights for those trapped by fight­ing.

All par­ties to the Ye­men con­flict have ac­cused one an­other of ham­per­ing de­liv­er­ies of med­i­cal sup­plies, food and other com­modi­ties in per­ilously short sup­ply af­ter more than a month of bat­tles. A Saudi Ara­bia-led coali­tion launched a cam­paign of airstrikes March 26 aimed at driv­ing back Shi­ite Mus­lim Houthi in­sur­gents who have over­run much of Ye­men.

Fierce com­bat was re­ported Tues­day in the oil­pro­duc­ing prov­ince of Marib, east of Sana and the site of elec­tri­cal fa­cil­i­ties that power the cap­i­tal. Elec­tric­ity is on in Sana for only about an hour a day, res­i­dents say, and more dam­age in Marib could re­sult in even less power be­ing gen­er­ated.

The Marib fight­ing has killed about 60 peo­ple since Mon­day, of­fi­cials re­ported. Other clashes were tak­ing place in the south­ern port city of Aden, Ye­men’s main com­mer­cial hub, and the city of Taizz, which lies at a strate­gic cross­roads be­tween Aden and the cap­i­tal.

In a grim pat­tern that has per­sisted since the ear­li­est days of the con­flict, civil­ian ca­su­al­ties con­tin­ued to mount as fight­ing raged in res­i­den­tial ar­eas. An ap­par­ent airstrike hit a home in Aden, killing four mem­bers of one fam­ily, of­fi­cials said, though some ac­counts said it was an ar­tillery strike by the in­sur­gents and their al­lies.

The fight­ing in Ye­men in­volves a tan­gle of com­bat­ants.

In Marib, Sunni Mus­lim tribes­men have banded to­gether to fight the ad­vanc­ing Houthis. In Aden, the in­sur­gents are con­fronting mili­tias loyal to Pres­i­dent Abdu Rabu Man­sour Hadi, who has fled to Saudi Ara­bia.

Ye­men’s army has split into units re­main­ing al­lied with Hadi and those tak­ing the side of Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, the strongman de­posed in 2012. Also in the volatile mix is Al Qaeda’s lo­cal branch, which has gained some Sunni tribal re­cruits ea­ger to take on the Houthis and is seek­ing to seize wealth and ter­ri­tory amid the chaos.

The bomb dam­age to Sana’s air­port came as aid groups warned of a bur­geon­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe trig­gered by the conf lict. Un­til Tues­day, some United Na­tions and Red Cross flights had been able to land in the cap­i­tal, but the lat­est bom­bard­ment ap­peared to have tar­geted the ter­mi­nals and may have ren­dered the sin­gle run­way un­us­able. It also wrecked a com­mer­cial plane be­long­ing to a Ye­meni air­line.

The chief Saudi mil­i­tary spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, told Saudi-owned news chan­nel Al Ara­biya that the run­way was bombed af­ter an Ira­nian plane sought to “defy” calls to first land at a Saudi air­port to be searched for po­ten­tial weapons be­fore head­ing on to Sana. Iran de­nies sup­ply­ing arms to the in­sur­gents.

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