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Yemen’s UN ambassador calls for ground forces to intervene

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations is asking the international community to quickly intervene with ground forces to save the country from Houthi rebels who have been targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes for weeks.

A letter sent Wednesday to the president of the U.N. Security Council and obtained by The Associated Press also calls on human rights organizations to document what Ambassador Khaled Alyemany calls the Houthis’ “barbaric violations against a defenseless population.”

The call for the use of ground forces comes as the international community instead calls for an immediate ceasefire, or at least humanitarian pauses, to deliver aid to civilians trapped in the fighting.

And the new U.N. envoy to Yemen set off for the region on Wednesday, with talks planned with Yemen’s president on Thursday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as a fresh attempt at brokered peace talks begins. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday to seek a pause in the Yemen fighting.

The fighting has turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs the Houthis. The U.N. human rights office says at least 646 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the airstrikes began March 26. At least 300,000 people have been displaced.

Alyemany did not immediately comment, and it was not clear what kind of land forces his country has in mind.

The Saudi-led airstrikes began two days after Yemen sent the council a similar letter asking it to authorize a military intervention to oust the Houthis and asked members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for immediate help.

The spokeswoman for the current council president, Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, confirmed that the ambassador had received the new letter but said the council so far was not scheduled to discuss it on Thursday.

The letter comes as the Houthi rebels and their allies on Wednesday consolidated their hold in another part of the southern port city of Aden, where the U.N. said violence was getting increasingly intense. Several districts in Aden governorate were completely cut off, the deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters earlier Wednesday.

The U.N.’s humanitarian office cited reports of heavy shelling in seven districts of Aden, Haq said. In Tawahi district, which the Houthis took Wednesday, parties to the conflict were “reportedly shooting at residents attempting to leave and shelling the boat in which they trying to escape,” Haq said. “Several hundred families managed to flee to other parts of Aden governorate by boat.”

Alyemany’s letter lists a few examples of “latest barbaric events in Aden.” The letter says more than 50 civilians, including women and children, were killed by Houthi strikes on their boats as they tried to flee Tawahi district.

The letter claims that the Houthis are “targeting anything that moves” in Aden, killing humanitarian workers, using tanks and heavy artillery on families and preventing medical teams from reaching injured people.

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