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UN's Zeid Links Most Attacks on Yemeni Civilians to Saudi Coalition


FILE - A man stands on the wreckage of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen's Red Sea port city of Houdieda, Dec. 21, 2015.
FILE - A man stands on the wreckage of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen's Red Sea port city of Houdieda, Dec. 21, 2015.

The top U.N. human rights official said Tuesday that the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen appeared to have been responsible for a "disproportionate" number of attacks on civilians in that strife-torn country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, addressing the Security Council, said a Saudi-led air-and-artillery campaign launched early this year had targeted civilian areas and led to the destruction of some hospitals and schools.

Zeid spoke two days after U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva brought together Iran-backed Shi'ite rebel envoys and those of the Arab coalition backing internationally recognized President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Those talks, tentatively set to resume in mid-January, ended without a deal and were marred by repeated cease-fire violations from both sides.

The two sides have battled since March, and U.N. data show more than 5,700 people, most of them civilians, have died in the conflict.

Zeid was joined at Tuesday's open Security Council session by special Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who described the weekend talks in the Swiss town of Magglingen as revealing "deep divisions between the two sides on the path to peace and the shape of a future agreement."

The conflict erupted in September 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sana'a, before pushing southward and forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia as they took control of the port city of Aden.

The Saudi government later responded with Gulf coalition airstrikes that have since pushed rebels out of Aden and allowed the president to return to the city. Rebels still control Sana'a.

Last month, U.N. official Johannes Van Der Klaauw said more than 21 million of Yemen's 27 million residents were in need of humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. He also said that about 3 million children and pregnant women needed emergency aid to stave off malnutrition.

Airstrikes in Taiz

Also Tuesday, Yemeni security officials said a Saudi-led coalition had launched more than a dozen airstrikes against anti-government rebels in Taiz province, killing at least 20.

They said the raids killed more than 15 Houthi fighters. The rebels were also fighting pro-government forces southwest of Taiz.

The security officials said coalition airstrikes killed five rebels just outside the city of Bihan in Shabwa province, while eight people were killed in fighting in Jawf province.

The officials, who back neither side in the Yemeni conflict, spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

Some information for this report came from AP.

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