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Saudi Arabia intensifies bombardment ahead as it prepares to co-host Yemen aid conference

The war has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 June, 2020

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Saudi Arabia, accused of committing 'war crimes' in Yemen, is hosting an emergency donor conference for the impoverished country.

The Saudi-led coalition intensified its bombing campaign in Yemen on the eve of a Tuesday donor conference co-hosted by Riyadh to aid the impoverished country.

The coalition launched dozens of strikes on Monday in Marib governorate, northeast of the capital Sana, according to rebel-run Al-Masirah TV.  

Air raids also struck Al-Rabwa area in the Asir province, south of Yemen, according to the same source. No casualties were reported so far.

The attacks launched by the Saudi-UAE coalition aircrafts came on the eve of an emergency donor conference, co-hosted by Riyadh and the United Nations, to support the war-torn country as it faces a coronavirus catastrophe in the sixth year of the Saudi-led military intervention.

The virtual conference seeks to raise $2.3 billion to support Yemen, where aid groups have warned that the fast-spreading virus could wreak havoc after years of war and amid crippling funding shortages.

"A total of $2.3 billion is being sought to cover emergency requirements in Yemen across multiple humanitarian sectors, including medical, food and shelter assistance," a Saudi government statement said.

The UK, a leading arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, stepped in Tuesday with a new aid package for Yemen worth £160 million ($200 million).

"This targeted UK aid package will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Yemenis who now also face the threat of coronavirus," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

"Our support will help ensure families can feed themselves and access clean water and medical care," he said. 

Read also: Yemen in Focus: War has hindered Yemen's chances to beat coronavirus

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, as well as Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, were to take part in the aid conference.

Lowcock has flagged a funding requirement of $2.4 billion for Yemen by the end of the year, including $180 million to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yemen is already gripped by what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, counts itself as a top donor to Yemen, having contributed billions of dollars in aid.

But the Saudi-led coalition is also widely blamed for civilian casualties in bombing raids that campaigners say have pushed the country deeper into crisis.

A rebel spokesman dismissed the Saudi-led conference as a "silly attempt to (gloss over) their crimes", according to the Al-Masirah television.

The war has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians, and the UN says around 24 million Yemenis - more than two thirds of the population - rely on some form of aid.

Fighting between the Saudi-backed forces and the rebels has continued despite repeated UN calls for a ceasefire as part of global efforts to combat coronavirus.

Further muddying the waters are tensions between two anti-Houthi allies - the Yemeni government and southern separatists, which declared self-rule in southern Yemen on 26 April.

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