Saudi blockade on Yemen must be lifted 'for humanitarian reasons immediately'

Supporters of Shiite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa Yemen Tuesday Dec. 5 2017.
        The Associated Press

Supporters of Shiite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa Yemen Tuesday Dec. 5 2017. The Associated Press

Houthi rebels have blown up the residence of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Saudi-led military coalition backing Hadi's government carried out a wave of air strikes on the capital and warned residents to evacuate areas under rebel control.

Yemen's minister of information called upon the Houthi armed group to release the journalists and urged worldwide organisations to "leave the status of passive onlookers and take acts to press the militias to stop tormenting all the Yemeni journalists", Muammar Al- Eryani told Saba Net.

The assault and hostage-taking comes amid heightened tensions after forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh severed ties with the Houthis, sparking days of gun battles and artillery fire in the capital.

It was not immediately clear if the rebels would allow Saleh's family to hold a funeral later in the day.

Saudi Arabia continues to bomb Yemen's Sana'a despite calls for humanitarian ceasefire: UN

A video circulating on social media showed fully-veiled women chanting "The people want the martyr's body". The coalition has imposed a blockade on the country, with the aim of reinstating the internationally recognized government of Saleh's successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The move comes a day after the United Nations called for a ceasefire.

Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades until an Arab Spring uprising forced him to step down in 2012.

On Monday, an official from Saleh's party, the General People's Congress (GPC), confirmed reports that the former president was killed by the Houthis.

Earlier in the day, Yemen's Interior Ministry issued a statement confirming the death of Saleh during clashes in capital Sana'a.

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The 75-year-old had survived a civil war, rebellion in the north, an Al-Qaeda insurgency in the south and a June 2011 bomb attack on his palace that wounded him badly.

Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, a rebel leader, said Tuesday that "some sons" of Saleh have been hospitalized, without providing further details.

Without mentioning Saleh by name, he said that he knew about Saleh's communication with the coalition and his efforts to turn against the Houthis. That helped propel Yemen into the ruinous civil war that has spread hunger and disease among its 28 million people. They briefly lost control of much of the city in the recent fighting with Saleh supporters before making a dramatic comeback.

Houthi supporters massed in their thousands near the capital's worldwide airport, shouting "Sanaa is free and the state still stands!" and "Yemenis are one!" as rebel chiefs struck a conciliatory tone, declaring they were "ensuring the safety" of members of the GPC - a statement that stood in sharp contrast with the GPC's claims of a Houthi charge against them.

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