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In the news: Airstrikes hit Sana’a

The heavy bombing comes despite a UN call for a ceasefire to fight COVID-19.

Ali, 13 years old, stands in the middle of destroyed buildings in his Sana'a neighbourhood on 22 December 2017. (Yeyha Arhab/EPA for ICRC)

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has reportedly carried out airstrikes on Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, in an apparent retaliation for rockets Houthi rebels said they launched at the kingdom over the weekend.

The death toll from the bombing, which began on Monday, was not immediately clear. Heavy strikes on Houthi-controlled Sana’a have been rare in the past few months, likely thanks to talks between the rebels and Saudi Arabia. But there has been a recent uptick in fighting around the provinces of al-Jawf and Marib, and on Saturday night Saudi Arabia said it had intercepted ballistic missiles fired towards Riyadh and its southern border. 

The Houthis (officially called Ansar Allah), who have been fighting the coalition-backed internationally recognised government for five years, said they had launched rockets and drones at the kingdom. 

In a Sunday statement, the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was “gravely dismayed and disappointed by these actions at a time when the Yemeni public’s demands for peace are unanimous and louder than ever before.

“Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.

Late last week, Griffiths said he had received “positive responses” from the Houthis and the Yemeni government to a UN call for a ceasefire to prepare for and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. No cases of the disease have yet been declared in Yemen, but for more on how the pandemic risks disrupting the aid effort in the country, read our recent story.

– Annie Slemrod

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