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Children play near damaged buildings in the Al-Ora's neighborhood of Zinjibar. (Photo: UNHCR/A.Al-Sharif)

Children play near damaged buildings in the Al-Ora's neighborhood of Zinjibar. (Photo: UNHCR/A.Al-Sharif)

Ahead of Proposed Ceasefire, Saudi Arabia Pummels Yemen with Heavy Bombing

Escalating airstrikes come as humanitarian crisis mounts and UN official warns 'Hundreds of thousands of people across Yemen are struggling to meet their basic needs'

Sarah Lazare

Just hours before a five-day humanitarian ceasefire is set to take place, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday pummeled Yemen with airstrikes, hitting the capital Sanaa and the southern port of Aden, according to witnesses.

Backed by Washington, the bombings are in-step with escalating attacks in the lead-up to the planned temporary truce. On Monday, the coalition launched fresh airstrikes on Sanaa, reportedly killing at least 90 people and wounding 300, in one of the deadly such attacks since the air war began on March 26.

The latest barrage comes amid mounting concerns that the ongoing bombings by the Saudi-led coalition, in addition to a naval blockade, are creating an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the country as supplies of food, water, and medicine dwindle.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on Tuesday that it has delivered a shipment of aid to the Yemen port of Hodeida in hopes of delivering it during the planned ceasefire, with more shipments slated to follow if the truce holds.

"Hundreds of thousands of people across Yemen are struggling to meet their basic needs and are in desperate need of help," declared UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards.

Numerous Yemeni and international aid organizations have condemned the siege and attacks, which have hit refugee camps, humanitarian aid warehouses, crowded residential neighborhoods, and civilian infrastructure.

Arriving in Sanaa on Tuesday, the new United Nations envoy to Yemen, Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, declared that there is no military solution to the country's crisis. "We are convinced there is no solution to Yemen's problem except through a dialogue, which must be Yemeni," he reportedly said.

But even with a pause allegedly looming, Saudi Arabia is continuing its military deployments, with Saudi outlets reporting Monday that the country is sending tanks and artillery to the border with Yemen.

The UNHCR estimates that, across the Yemen, over 300,000 civilians have been displaced by the ongoing conflict, which "has also affected many of the 250,000 mainly Somali refugees in Yemen alongside the 330,000 people already internally displaced by previous waves of conflict." On Wednesday, the UN agency OCHA estimated that 1,527 people have been killed in the conflict and 6,266 wounded.

Many have raised concerns about whether the temporary truce will hold. In late April, Saudi Arabia made a surprise announcement that its "Operation Decisive Storm" had reached its conclusion, yet unleashed new bombings within hours of the announcement.

Furthermore, on Monday, the third suspected U.S. drone strike in 36 hours hit Mukalla, on the southern coast of Yemen, killing at least four people.

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