Yemen's Houthis warn Saudi-led airstrikes would abort peace talks

2016-07-22 11:40:02 GMT2016-07-22 19:40:02(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

SANAA, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Yemen's dominant Shiite Houthi rebels warned that continuing airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition would certainly fail the UN-brokered peace talks underway in Kuwait, according to a statement released Friday.

The warning came a day after Kuwait set a deadline for delegations of Yemeni warring parties to deal or depart.

"In an escalating move, the Saudi-led aggression has intensified its military operations in several Yemeni provinces, including over 75 airstrikes on Thursday and overnight," said the statement.

It stressed the airstrikes targeted civilians, as well as the joint truce committee in Saada province during a mission with Saada governor, causing critical injuries.

"We emphasize that the Saudi-led military escalation is serious as it breaks the ceasefire reached on April 10 and is certainly to fail the talks underway in Kuwait, or any possible political compromise and peace to Yemen," said the Houthi statement.

The Saudi-led coalition, mostly from Arab countries, started intervention in Yemen's conflict in March 2015 to restore power to internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Iranian-allied Houthis backed by forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the capital Sanaa and forced Hadi with his government into exile in 2014.

The warring parties have been holding peace talks in Kuwait since April under auspices of the United Nations to seek political compromise to end the civil war.

The war has killed more than 6,400 people, half of them civilians, injured more 35,000 others and displaced over two millions, according to humanitarian aid agencies.

Yemeni pro-government media reported late Thursday evening that Saudi-led coalition warplanes launched four airstrikes targeting a convoy of armed Houthi fighters in Majaz district in the far north Saada province, the main stronghold of Houthis near Saudi southern border.

It said the convoy contains Houthi leaders including Mohammed Jaber Awadh, whom Houthi group has appointed as Saada governor.

Media also reported that Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces advanced overnight into Haradh city of the nearby northwest Hajja province, also bordering Saudi Arabia.

The forces backed by Saudi fighter jets tightened siege on Haradh's northern outskirt, driving Houthi fighters into the center of the city after fierce battles since early Thursday, the media cited Yemeni government military officials.

They said the military push on the strategic city is continuing as dozens of Houthi fighters were killed or injured after being weakened by tens of airstrikes.

The airstrikes were also reported around the Houthi-held capital Sanaa and other provinces of Marib, Taiz and al-Jawf, according to officials and residents.

Kuwait, which has been hosting the peace talks since April 21, has issued a deadline to the warring parties to reach a deal within 15 days or leave.

The UN-brokered talks in Kuwait failed to achieve progress with both sides holding firm to their positions in the past three months.

"We have provided another 15 days for Yemeni sides to resolve all the issues," Kuwait's state news agency KUNA reported late Thursday, quoting Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister Khaled al-Jarallah as saying.

"If the matters are not settled before the deadline, our brothers will have to excuse us for not hosting the talks any more," Jarallah said.

The UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said last Saturday that the talks would last for another 15 days and warned that the two weeks may be Yemen's last chance for peace.