Yemen's exiled government 'will attend' peace talks
Yemen's exiled government has confirmed it will attend UN-mediated peace talks next week aimed at reaching a ceasefire with the Houthi rebels who control large parts of the country.
In a statement on Thursday the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi said that a rebel pullback from areas seized since last year - as outlined by a UN resolution - remained a precondition to negotiations.
At a meeting in Riyadh, Yemeni government officials "approved their participation in talks aimed at implementing Resolution 2216," the statement said.
The UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said on Thursday that both the exiled government and the Houthi rebels had agreed to take part in negotiations that "will convene in the region next week".
Hadi's government called on Cheikh Ahmed to "strive for a clear, public commitment from the Houthis" and allied forces to withdraw from areas they have seized, including the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
Previous diplomatic efforts to end Yemen's more than five-month war failed to bear fruit and a Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi has waged near-daily air strikes against the rebels.
On Friday morning, powerful explosions hit the al-Hassaba neighbourhood of the rebel-held capital, where an arms depot was targeted by coalition war planes, witnesses said.
The Arab coalition fighting the insurgents sent more military vehicles and troops across the border into Yemen on Friday in preparation for an offensive to retake the capital, military officials said.
The arrival of reinforcements came as coalition warplanes killed seven rebels in an air raid on Friday in eastern Yemen, where Apache helicopters have also joined the fight against the Houthis.
The strike targeted a military vehicle used by the rebels in the eastern province of Marib, while other air raids struck rebel positions in neighbouring Shabwa province, military sources said.
Hours later, the rebels fired Katyusha rockets at the government headquarters in Marib's provincial capital, witnesses said.
But several rockets landed on an adjacent market in Marib's city centre, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding dozens, according to medics and witnesses.
An AFP reporter at the Wadia border post between Saudi Arabia and Yemen saw at least 40 coalition military vehicles cross over into oil-rich Marib.
The vehicles were carrying Yemeni troops trained in Saudi Arabia as well as coalition troops whose nationality military officials in the area declined to specify.
The UN estimates that more than 4,500 people have been killed in the conflict.