The Saudi-led coalition carried out bombings that suggested a broadening, rather than a scaling back, of the air offensive against Houthi rebels.
AL-MUKALLA, Yemen — Warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition bombed targets in the Yemeni capital Sunday for the first time since Saudi officials said they were shifting their campaign against a Yemeni rebel group toward political negotiations and humanitarian relief.
Also on Sunday, at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded in escalating violence in the southern city of Taiz, which was emerging as the latest lethal flash point in Yemen’s civil war.
In addition to the bombings in Sanaa, the capital, which struck a military base and the presidential palace, the coalition carried out airstrikes in several other provinces, suggesting a broadening — rather than a scaling back — of the monthlong Saudi air offensive against Houthi rebels.
Despite vague talk of negotiations last week, there was little sign that any of the combatants in Yemen’s conflict were preparing to halt the fighting. Rather, the violence heightened in recent days as it became more apparent that the warring parties were locked in a standoff, with the Saudis insisting that the Houthis retreat and the Houthis demanding an unconditional end to the airstrikes.
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Saudi Arabia said the military operation was intended to shake the grip of the Houthis and restore the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced from power and into exile by the Houthis this year.
But the air campaign has killed scores of civilians and earned derision from critics who have called it strategically incoherent for failing either to dislodge the Houthis and their allies or to force them to negotiate.
Nonetheless, Saudi officials asserted last week that the offensive, which they called Decisive Storm, had achieved its objectives and that they would shift from military operations to a political process. But on Sunday, a senior Yemeni official, Riyadh Yaseen, who serves as the foreign minister for the Saudi-backed exiled government, said the first operation had “not ended.”
“There will be no deal with the Houthis whatsoever until they withdraw from areas under their control,” Yaseen said, speaking in London, according to Reuters.
More than 1,000 people have been killed over the past month, including at least 500 civilians, according to the United Nations. Hundreds have been killed in Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city, which has been devastated by factional street fighting for more than a month.
There are growing fears that Taiz, a densely populated city northwest of Aden, is suffering the same fate, as clashes there intensify. The city already has experienced severe shortages of fuel and food, residents said.
As in Aden, local forces were fighting against an alliance of the Houthis and heavily armed security units loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president.
A prominent, longtime opponent of Saleh’s, Sheik Hamoud Saeed al-Mikhlafi, was said to be leading the opposition to Saleh’s forces in Taiz.
As they meet fierce resistance in the city, the Houthis and their allies have been accused by residents of deploying deadly and frequently indiscriminate force. Witnesses said that on Sunday, the Houthis unleashed barrages of mortar shells that struck at least one hospital.