Heavy airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded Shiite rebels and allied forces in Yemen, according to witnesses, as international agencies called for USD 1.6 billion to help millions of Yemenis avoid a "looming humanitarian catastrophe."
The airstrikes targeted the capital Sanaa, the southern city of Aden and the provinces of Lahj and Jouf early today morning, officials and witnesses said. In the northern city of Saada, the stronghold of the Shiite rebels, at least 10 civilians were killed, witnesses said.
It was not immediately possible to verify the eyewitnesses account. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The fighting in Yemen pits Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against an array of forces, including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The rebels have controlled the capital since September.
A Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US, began carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies in late March, but the campaign has made little progress in pushing back the rebel forces.
Today, a UN official Stephen O'Brien said in Geneva that there is a "looming humanitarian catastrophe" facing Yemen with at least 11.7 million people affected by the conflict and in need of USD 1.6 billion dollars in emergency aid.
"People across the country are struggling to feed their families. Basic services are collapsing in all regions. Millions of families no longer have access to clean water, proper sanitation or basic health care. Deadly diseases such as dengue and malaria have broken out, and supplies for acute trauma care are running dangerously low," he said.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by the fighting and airstrikes, while one million have fled their homes.