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Saudi-led strikes kill at least 12 Yemeni rebels

The UN says more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 27 April, 2015

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Airstrikes targeted Houthi rebel positions Monday, as the first Saudi National Guard contingent is deployed on the border with Yemen, amid renewed Iranian criticisms of Riyadh.

Saudi-led coalition warplanes hit anti-government forces in south Yemen Monday, reportedly killing at least 12 Houthi rebels and allied forces as fighting continued across several provinces, military and local sources said.

The aircraft pounded five schools converted by the rebels into military bases in Ataq, the capital of Abyan province, military sources said.

Also in Abyan, warplanes targeted rebel positions on the outskirts of Loder, the province's second largest city, witnesses said.

Clashes were ongoing southwest of Loder between rebels and southern forces that have sided with Hadi, they added.

Fierce fighting also raged in the central city of Taez, with the warring parties using tanks and rocket-propelled grenades inside residential areas, local officials said.

Medics said at least 16 civilians were killed in Taez on Sunday. Coalition warplanes meanwhile hit rebel positions east of Taez overnight, witnesses said.

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since late March, when Saudi Arabia assembled an Arab coalition in support of Hadi.

Saudi troops

The first troops from Saudi Arabia's National Guard have been deployed on the border with Yemen, official media said late on Sunday.

They will join members of the border guard and the army who have reinforced the frontier since 26 March when the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes against the Houthi rebels and their allies.

The vanguard of National Guard troops "have arrived in Najran region to participate in the defence of the southern borders... so as to confront any possible threats," the official Saudi Press Agency said.

King Salman announced on 21 April the National Guard's mobilisation, just hours before the coalition declared an end to its air campaign dubbed "Operation Decisive Storm".

Despite that declaration, the coalition has continued daily airstrikes in Yemen.

A diplomatic source has told AFP the decision to deploy the National Guard was made the week prior to King Salman's announcement.

The National Guard is led by Prince Miteb bin Abdullah.

It is formed from tribes which have traditionally backed the rule of the Saud dynasty since it spread its Sunni rule in the Arabian Peninsula.

With about 125,000 troops backed by armoured vehicles, the guard operates in parallel, and as a palace-directed counterbalance, to the Saudi army.

Eight Saudi soldiers and border guards were killed in armed skirmishes along the frontier during Operation Decisive Storm.

Iranian criticism

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Monday accused Saudi Arabia of "treachery" and compared the kingdom to Israel.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly criticised the airstrikes and said the Saudi-led campaign is doomed to fail.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went so far as to call the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen "genocide."

"Today, the treacherous Saudis are following in Israel's footsteps," the commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying, adding that the Saudi monarchy is facing collapse and called on his government to adopt a tougher stance toward Riyadh.

"Saudi Arabia is shamelessly and disgracefully bombing and mass killing a nation that is fighting against the arrogant system," or world powers, he said.

The remarks are a further sign of deteriorating relations between Tehran and Riyadh, after recent heavy criticism by Iran's supreme leader and other top officials.

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