Middle East Updates / Saudi-led Coalition Bombing Yemen Announces End to Its Operation

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In this Friday, April 17, 2015 photo, the sky over Sanaa is illuminated by anti-aircraft fire during a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen. Credit: AP

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Latest updates:

8:59 P.M. Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen announces end to its operation on state TV (Reuters)

5:57 P.M. At least 40 people, mainly civilians, killed in Yemen airstrikes

Two airstrikes in Yemen on Tuesday killed at least 40 people, most of them civilians and wounded dozens of others, medical sources said.

One strike hit a bridge in central Ibb province as cars carrying militia members were driving on it, residents said, killing at least 20 people, mostly civilians. Another, on a security building in the city of Haradh near Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia, killed 13 civilians and seven soldiers.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies have been bombing Yemen for almost a month in a bid to weaken the country's dominant force, the Shi'ite Houthi militia movement allied to Iran. (Reuters)

4:31 P.M. Saudi Arabia's King Salman orders National Guard to take part in Yemen campaign

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Tuesday ordered the Saudi Arabian National Guard, widely regarded as the kingdom's best equipped military ground force, to take part in Riyadh's campaign against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Military operations in the campaign have so far been carried out by the Royal Saudi Air Force and the Royal Saudi Land Forces, which answer to the Defense Ministry. The national guard is a separate military structure run by its own ministry. (Reuters) 

3:37 P.M. Iran's deputy foreign minister sees Yemen cease-fire in coming hours

Iran's deputy foreign minister said he was optimistic that a cease-fire in Yemen would be announced later on Tuesday, in a sign diplomatic efforts may be underway to stop almost a month of Saudi-led bombing of Yemen's Houthi group.

Iran has repeatedly called for a halt to an almost month-long campaign of air strikes by Saudi Arabia and Arab allies, but members of the coalition and their Western backers have so far rejected Iran's proposals, accusing it of supporting the Houthis.

"We are optimistic that in the coming hours, after many efforts, we will see a halt to military attacks in Yemen," Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab countries in a bombing campaign against the Houthis and allied military units loyal to the powerful former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have taken swathes of territory and forced Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

"Iranian proposals are not being addressed at the moment," one Yemeni official said on condition of anonymity.

Another Yemeni official said representatives of Saleh's party had made peace proposals to the government in exile but suggested the rebel forces would have to meet further conditions before the government would accept.

"There are contacts and initiatives for a cease-fire, mostly presented by leaders in the former president's party," the official told Reuters.

"But any initiative will not be accepted unless the Houthis and Saleh announced their commitment to implement the UN Security Council Resolution, particularly the immediate stop to attacks on Aden and the withdrawal from it," the official added, referring to a decision reached by the United Nations last week. (Reuters)

3:18 P.M. Dozens said killed in fierce clashes in southern Syria

Activists say intense clashes between government forces and militants in southern Syria have killed more than two dozen people in two days.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battles that began Monday in the southern province of Daraa have left 37 rebels and Muslim militants as well as 22 government troops dead.

It added that on Tuesday, the Syrian air force struck several areas in Daraa province.

The Local Coordination Committees said the violence in Daraa left at least 27 people dead on Monday alone. (AP)

2:00 A.M. UN Security Council demands aid access for Syria's Yarmouk camp

The UN Security Council on Monday demanded all parties to the Syrian civil war allow humanitarian aid to reach without obstruction the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, a site that Islamist militants had recently seized.

The unanimous appeal by the 15-nation council came after Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told the council behind closed doors about "extreme circumstances and hardship" in the camp, a diplomat who attended the meeting said.

"Members of the Security Council called for unhindered humanitarian access to the Yarmouk Camp and for the protection of civilians," the statement said.

The council "stressed the need to support the emergency relief effort for civilians in Yarmouk including through funding the $30 million emergency appeal." (Reuters)

1:49 A.M. Canada to issue passport to jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy

The Canadian government said on Monday it is now able to issue a passport to Mohammed Fahmy, the Al Jazeera journalist and naturalized Canadian who had been jailed in Egypt and is awaiting retrial there.

"After several weeks of intervention by government officials on Mr. Fahmy's behalf, we are now in a position to issue Mr. Fahmy's a passport despite ongoing legal issues and travel restrictions," Kevin Menard, a spokesman for Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said in an e-mail.

Fahmy, who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, was released on bail in February after spending more than a year in custody. (Reuters)

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy speaks before the judge at a court in Cairo, February 12, 2015. Photo by Reuters

12:06 A.M. Obama, Abu Dhabi crown prince discuss need for military equipment

President Barack Obama and Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayanabu, discussed the need for military equipment and supplies for the United Arab Emirates during a meeting at the White House on Monday, a White House spokesman said.

"In the context of our nations' partnership to counter (Islamic State militants) ISIL, as well as U.S. support for the (Gulf Cooperation Council)-led operations in Yemen, the leaders discussed the ongoing need for expedited provision of essential military equipment and supplies to the UAE," said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council. (Reuters)

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