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Casualties rise in Aden clashes as Saudi-led coalition pushes back Houthis

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By Alasdair Sandford  with AFP, Reuters
Casualties rise in Aden clashes as Saudi-led coalition pushes back Houthis

Nearly 200 people are said to have died in the fighting that has embroiled the southern Yemeni city of Aden for nine days.

The figure comes from a senior health official who also speaks of more than 1,000 injured.

The head of Aden’s health department, Al-Khader Lassouar, told AFP that by midnight on Friday, 185 deaths and 1,282 injuries had been registered at the city’s hospitals.

Three-quarters of the victims were civilians, he said, adding that the actual total could be higher as casualties among rebel forces are unknown.

Warplanes from Saudi Arabia have dropped weapons to help forces loyal to Yemen’s president push back Houthi rebels who are now said to have withdrawn from the centre of Aden.

President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi remains in Saudi Arabia after fleeing the city.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states are trying to stop the Iranian-allied Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from winning control of Yemen.

But while the strikes are said to have slowed up the Shi’ite rebel advance, there are fears that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) may take advantage of the power vacuum, especially in Yemen’s remote eastern region.

The army says a tribal alliance has taken over two military bases in Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt province, and plan to retake the provincial capital Mukalla from suspected Al Qaeda fighters who drove the army out and ransacked the town.

Reports from Sanaa say nine people from the same family were killed in an airstrike that hit a village near a military base outside the capital. A government news agency said the victims were two men, one woman and six children.

Residents near Okash village, which is near an air force camp on Jebel al-Nabi Shouieb mountain, said the air strike was on Friday night.

The UN Security Council is to meet on Saturday to discuss a Russian proposal for a humanitarian pause in the air strikes.

There have been protests against the Saudi-led offensive in Sanaa, which was seized by Houthi forces six months ago.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Saturday that three shipments of aid and medical staff it is trying to send to Yemen were still blocked, despite appeals to the Saudi-led military coalition which controls Yemeni air space and ports.

The ICRC is seeking security guarantees for two planes to Sanaa, one with medical supplies for up to 1,000 wounded people and a second with 30 tonnes of medical and water sanitation supplies, as well as a boat to take a surgical team to Aden.

The United Nations said on Thursday that more than 500 people had been killed and almost 1,700 wounded in the last two weeks of fighting across the country.