Sanaa Residents Flee Night of Terror


Hundreds of terrified civilians fled the Yemeni capital on Thursday after a sleepless night of heavy Saudi air raids against Shiite Huthi rebels.

"I'm leaving with my family -- Sanaa is no longer safe," said Mohammed, loading personal belongings onto a minibus in a northern district of Sanaa, which has been under Huthi control since September.

Huge explosions rocked the city throughout Wednesday night as Saudi-led warplanes pounded an air base in the Bani Huwat area of north Sanaa next to the international airport and other sites.

Seven homes neighbouring the base were hit, killing at least 14 civilians, a civil defence source said.

In a grim landscape of cars shredded by blasts and roads strewn with rubble, a man sat dazed in what remained of his home as rescue workers extracted survivors from ruins around him.

"Why did they intervene now ... when the Huthis have already seized most parts" of the country? asked Safwan Haidar, a neighbour.

For Mohammed and most Sanaa residents it was a sleepless night of bombardment by Saudi warplanes countered by Huthi anti-aircraft fire.

"My children were terrorised," he said as they left for his hometown of Ibb in central Yemen.

The civil defence source said children and women were among the 14 killed as seven homes crumbled in the bombardment.

Huthi rebel militiamen, who normally keep journalists at bay, allowed the media free access as nervous crowds gathered at the scene.

"These Saudi, American and Israeli crimes will not deter us. On the contrary, our determination will increase to wipe them out because they're hitting civilians and the innocent," a rebel fighter said.

The rebels' television station Al-Massir aired urgent appeals for medics to head to Sanaa hospitals.


- Rush on petrol stations - 

According to military sources and witnesses, several Huthi-held sites including the air base and the Sanaa presidential palace were hit, setting off fires.

A Saudi military adviser said the raids had "taken out the Huthi air defences and destroyed numerous Huthi fighter planes".

Sanaa schools stayed closed on Thursday and long lines of cars formed at petrol stations. "Everyone's scared petrol will run out," said Hammoud, waiting in his car.

Unlike in Sanaa, many residents of the southern city of Aden, the target of Huthi forces closing in on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, expressed relief at the Saudi-led intervention.

"We express our thanks and appreciation for the support of our brothers... even if has come a bit late," said Abu Nasser al-Adari.

Saudi Arabia said it had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries for the military operation to prevent the fall of Hadi, who has been holed up in Aden since fleeing rebel-controlled Sanaa last month.

Residents reported hearing explosions at the huge Al-Anad air base, north of Aden, which was seized by anti-government forces on Wednesday.

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