SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Rockets fired by Shiite rebels have killed at least 18 civilians and 13 anti-rebel fighters in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, where fierce fighting has been raging for months, the director of Aden’s health services said Wednesday.
The United Nations meanwhile declared its highest level of humanitarian emergency in Yemen, where 80 percent of the population needs assistance. U.N. officials have said the country is one step away from famine.
The fighting in Yemen pits the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and allied troops loyal to a former president against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of the exiled current president. The rebels seized the capital in September, and a Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition began launching airstrikes against them in March.
Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as an armed proxy of its regional rival, Shiite Iran. Tehran supports the rebels but denies arming them.
Health officials and eyewitnesses said at least 7 civilians were killed and 18 wounded in the Mansoura area of Aden when the Houthis fired Katyusha rockets into a street overnight.
Ahmed Munir, a local resident, said a rocket fell on the street, and that when people rushed to help the injured, another rocket hit the same spot. Yasser Mubarak, another eyewitness, said he saw body parts scattered across the street.
Another 24 people were killed in separate incidents in Aden in which rebels fired at least 20 Katyushas and mortar rounds on homes and neighborhoods, according to security officials and eyewitnesses. At least 100 people were wounded, they said.
Medical officials say hospitals in Aden are overwhelmed, as operating rooms work around the clock to treat patients injured in the ongoing conflict.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said U.N. agencies agreed to declare a “Level 3” humanitarian emergency in Yemen on Wednesday. The United Nations is already scrambling to respond to top-level humanitarian emergencies in Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.
In Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, Haq says over 21.1 million people need aid, 13 million face “a food security crisis” and 9.4 million have little or no access to water. He says 11.7 million have been targeted for assistance under a U.N. humanitarian response plan.
Airstrikes and ground fighting have killed more than 1,400 civilians since March and displaced more than a million amid shortages of fuel and medical supplies, according to U.N. agencies.
According to the World Health Organization, 3,083 people have died as a result of the conflict and another 14,324 have been wounded, Haq said Tuesday.
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continued Wednesday in Shabwa and Taiz provinces. Twelve Houthis were killed when an airstrike hit an encampment in Shabwa, medical and security officials said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The Saudi military said Wednesday that a soldier posted along the country’s southern border died of wounds sustained from a missile strike launched by Shiite rebels from inside Yemen. It did not specify when the attack took place.
The Houthis frequently fire missiles from inside Yemen at Saudi border posts. More than two dozen Saudi soldiers have been killed in such attacks.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
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