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Heavy Saudi-led airstrikes hit Yemen airports as kingdom ponders possible cease-fire for aid

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SANAA, Yemen — Heavy Saudi-led airstrikes targeted several airports Monday across Yemen even as the kingdom's foreign minister said officials were considering a cease-fire to allow aid into the Arab world's poorest country, while Senegal announced it would be contributing troops to back the Saudi-led coalition.

In the southern city of Aden, more than 150 airstrikes hit the city's airport, witnesses and security officials said. Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies are locked in fierce fighting there against forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Monday's airstrikes also hit airports in the city of Hodeida and the capital, Sanaa, witnesses and officials said. They said other airstrikes targeted Yemen's eastern province of Marib and the Houthi stronghold of Saada, while clashes in Aden left buildings ablaze and the Saudi-led coalition airdropped weapons to tribes allied with Hadi's government in Marib.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to talk to journalists. Witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity over fear of reprisals.

Senegalese Foreign Affairs Minister Mankeur Ndiaye said his country is sending 2,100 soldiers to help back the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to contribute soldiers to the effort.

Senegal, which is made up of mostly Sunni Muslims like Saudi Arabia, has received significant financial investments from the kingdom in recent years. Senegalese President Macky Sall met last month with the Saudi king, who solicited troop contributions at that time.

Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, along with security personnel loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes since late March. On Monday, newly appointed Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said coalition countries were considering a cease-fire to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"Saudi Arabia is consulting with members of the alliance ... to find specific places to deliver humanitarian assistance, during which there will be a halt of all air operations, and in specific timings to help deliver the aid," the official Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.

Al-Jubeir also warned the rebels against exploiting any possible halt in airstrikes, saying the kingdom will resume airstrikes over any "violations" impeding the humanitarian efforts.

More than 1,200 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict, many of those civilians, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said. Hadi's government in exile in Saudi Arabia says at least 1,000 civilians have died.

The U.N. humanitarian agency said later Monday that insecurity and lack of fuel have limited the delivery of services, and aid partners report difficulty in providing medical services amid the current security situation.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen is "strongly urging the coalition to stop targeting the Sanaa airport to preserve this important lifeline," the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters. "We have repeatedly called on the coalition not to hit any civilian infrastructure."

On Sunday, at least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coalition came ashore in Aden on what military officials called a "reconnaissance" mission, the first ground landing by coalition forces. There have been recent calls by Yemeni officials in exile for a Saudi-led ground invasion to restore Hadi's government.


Associated Press writers Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal and Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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