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Saudi-led coalition bombs air base in Yemen’s capital

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2018 file photo, Ahmed Rashid Mokbel, a severely malnourished 7-month-old Yemeni boy, is given formula by his mother at the Al-Sadaqa Hospital in Aden, Yemen. Oxfam, an international aid group, said Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, that more than half a million displaced people in war-torn Yemen face the "double threat" of famine and freezing temperatures as winter sets in. Oxfam said that some 530,000 displaced people are in mountainous areas, many living in makeshift shelters with no insulation or weatherproofing. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

CAIRO (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition bombed an air base in Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Wednesday as a local cease-fire held around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

In comments aired by Saudi state-run TV, the coalition said it struck the air base next to Sanaa’s international airport, destroying a rocket launcher and a drone that it said was preparing to carry out an attack.

It said the Houthis are using the airport “as a military camp in violation of international humanitarian law.”

Yemen’s rebel-run al-Masirah TV said the airstrikes hit the base and surrounding areas. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

Reopening the airport was among key issues discussed in peace talks in Sweden earlier this month. The warring parties did not make progress on the topic, however.

One proposal from the rebels was for Sanaa-bound aircraft to stop at another city in the region for inspection before proceeding to the Yemeni capital. The internationally recognized government proposed that Sanaa-bound aircraft be inspected in the southern port city of Aden.

More discussions on the airport are expected in the next round of peace talks in January.

The coalition, allied with Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, has been at war with the Iran-aligned rebels, known as Houthis, for nearly four years. Coalition airstrikes have killed thousands of people, while the Houthis have launched ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia and attacked vessels in the Red Sea.

A fragile cease-fire this week halted months of heavy fighting in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, through which the country imports 70 percent of its food and humanitarian aid. The war has generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, driving Yemen to the brink of famine.

Yemeni officials said there was sporadic artillery and automatic weapons fire in parts of the Houthi-held Red Sea city, with the two sides accusing each other of violating the truce. Residents also reported shelling early Wednesday for nearly an hour on the eastern and southern outskirts of Hodeida but said calm was restored later in the day.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media and the residents were concerned for their safety.

The coalition urged the U.N. to quickly deploy officers to oversee the withdrawal of the opposing forces from the city and its outskirts, warning that the truce could break down. A U.N. team led by a Dutch general is expected to travel to Hodeida later this week.

An aid group meanwhile said that more than half a million displaced people in Yemen face the “double threat” of famine and freezing temperatures as winter sets in.

Oxfam said some 530,000 displaced people are in mountainous areas, many living in makeshift shelters with no insulation or weatherproofing.

“Freezing temperatures could be the final straw for families already struggling to survive desperate hunger,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen director.

Last week, an international group tracking Yemen’s civil war reported that the conflict has killed more than 60,000 people, both combatants and civilians, since 2016. That is much higher than the U.N. figure of 10,000 civilian deaths, and has added to the urgency to find a political resolution.

The U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said it based its figures on news reports.

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Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen contributed to this report.

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