Much-needed aid is trickling into Yemen as rebels fight fresh battles with pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led air campaign that is set to enter its third week.
Washington said it had deepened its involvement in the air war on Iran-backed rebels and voiced fears al-Qaeda was exploiting the power vacuum.
The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, said 643 people had died and more than 2200 had been hurt in the violence since March 19, calling the humanitarian situation ‘critical’.
Aid groups have been struggling to get help into the country, where a Saudi-led coalition last month launched air strikes against Shi’ite Huthi rebels challenging president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Wednesday it had managed to bring a boat carrying 2.5 tonnes of medical aid to the main southern city of Aden, the scene of heavy fighting between rebels and pro-government forces.
A second boat, belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross, carrying medical aid and personnel also docked in Aden port but could not unload because of fighting in the area, air campaign spokesman, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Assiri, said.
Fighting has intensified in Aden, Hadi’s former stronghold, which he fled for Saudi Arabia last month.
At least 22 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Wednesday as rebel forces shelled the Mualla and Crater residential districts from surrounding hills, a medic and local officials said.
Witnesses said bodies could be seen on city streets and mosques called through loudspeakers for aid to the city.
Saudi-led warplanes also carried out further strikes, hitting rebel positions at Aden’s international airport and the huge al-Anad air base to its north, a Yemeni military source said.
On the diplomatic front, the Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers held talks in Islamabad on Wednesday and pledged to work to find a negotiated solution to the conflict.
Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif laid out a four-stage plan for talks, calling for an immediate ceasefire followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and the formation of an ‘all-inclusive government’.
Washington has backed the Saudi-led coalition and US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late on Tuesday that it was stepping up weapons deliveries and intelligence sharing in support of the effort.