Fighting rages in Yemen’s 3rd-largest city, strikes continue

SANAA, Yemen — Deadly street battles raged in Yemen’s third-largest city Sunday, as airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels struck targets in several cities, security officials said.

The fighting in Taiz between pro-government forces and rebels was heaviest in the city center, killing about 20 civilians and wounding dozens, officials said, adding that indiscriminately fired mortar rounds hit several private residences and landed near a hospital.

Reached by telephone, Taiz residents described relentless artillery, tank and heavy machine-gun fire.

“It’s like our homes have become a military target. They are killing us in cold blood,” said ­Tawfiq al-Maamari, a resident. “We left our homes with our children because the missiles are raining down on us without mercy.”

The continued airstrikes and ground combat underline how a negotiated peace remains elusive in the Arab world’s poorest country, despite a Saudi announcement last week that coalition operations would be scaled down and shifted to focus on diplomatic, humanitarian and counterterrorism issues. Both sides have said they welcome a return to dialogue.

The Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are allied with military units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Fighting continued across the country Sunday, with airstrikes hitting the capital, Sanaa, as well as the cities of Dhamar, Marib, Aden, Shabwa, Hajjah, Saada, Ibb and Lahij, the officials said. In Sanaa, they hit a military base on the city outskirts known to be an arms depot, as well as sites near the presidential palace where weapons were being moved.

In the southern port city of Aden, officials said air raids targeted rebels as street fighting between them and forces loyal to embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi continued. West of Aden, military officials said the Houthis and pro-Saleh forces captured an area leading up to the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, which overlooks the entrance to the Red Sea, a key global shipping route.