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Saudi-led coalition hits truck, killing 9 — Yemeni officials

By AP - May 14,2015 - Last updated at May 14,2015

SANAA, Yemen — A helicopter gunship belonging to the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels hit a truck in the country’s north early Thursday, killing nine people travelling in the vehicle, Yemeni security and military officials said.

The attack came on the second of a five-day humanitarian ceasefire that began nearly seven weeks after the coalition began air strikes against the rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies.

The officials said the attack took place in the northern Saada province, which is a stronghold of the Iran-backed rebels and the birthplace of their political movement, Ansar Allah.

The officials say the truck was suspected of carrying rebel weapons. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

The Houthis last year captured Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north before they began marching on the south of the country.

Also on Thursday, coalition warplanes flew over Sanaa, Saada and the port cities of Aden and Hodeida in what appeared to be reconnaissance flights, said the officials.

Saudi Arabia and its mostly Sunni Arab partners began the air campaign on March 26 to try to roll back the Houthis and allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The coalition hopes to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s internationally recognised leader, who fled the country in March in the face of the Houthi advance.

The conflict has killed more than 1,400 people — many of them civilians — since March 19, according to the UN. The country of some 25 million people has endured shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity as a result of a Saudi-led blockade.

The ceasefire is meant to help ease the suffering of civilians in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

The new UN envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, left Yemen on Thursday, one day after meeting with leaders of Saleh’s one-time ruling party. Ahmed has said he intends to meet separately with other political leaders.

“I will do everything I can to bring all Yemenis to the negotiating table at the earliest time possible,” he told reporters before boarding a UN aircraft at Sanaa Airport. His destination was not immediately known.

In a statement late Wednesday, Ahmed welcomed the humanitarian truce but noted “with concern” the continued violence in some areas.

“Further violence could hinder the provision of humanitarian aid and relief of the Yemeni people and undermine prospects for a permanent ceasefire and a return to the political process,” Ahmed warned.

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