Yemen's Houthis ready to hand over Saleh's body to family

YEMEN-SANAA-CLASH-AFTERMATH

Yemen's Houthis ready to hand over Saleh's body to family

Yemen's civil war, pitting the Iran-allied Houthis who control Sana'a against a Saudi-led military alliance backing a government based in the south, has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with the United Nations warning of a potential starvation that could threaten the lives of millions.

Clashes erupted between Saleh's forces and the Houthis last week.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that despite the intensified fighting, humanitarian flights, including by the United Nations and the Red Cross, resumed to Sanaa on Tuesday morning. The Arab League's general secretariat condemned the Iran-aligned Houthi movement which killed Saleh as a "terrorist organisation" and demanded that the global community view it as such.

Council members called for all parties "to immediately provide safe, rapid, unhindered and sustained commercial and humanitarian access" to all affected people through all of Yemen's ports and airports, especially Hodeida port and Sanaa airport.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the killing of Saleh would likely worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in the country in the short term.

The rebels killed Saleh on Monday, days after he broke off his alliance with them against a Saudi-led coalition.

The Arabian peninsula's poorest country, Yemen is one of the most violent fronts in a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have also backed opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the Middle East.

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The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, praised what he called the Houthis' swift quashing of the "coup against the holy warriors", the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was allegedly buried secretly Tuesday night without a funeral ceremony, according to Yemeni media outlets.

It's not clear how many civilians are among the dead.

The Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels had thrown its support behind Saleh just hours before his death. The ICRC didn't provide a toll from the near-daily airstrikes.

A video circulating online on Monday showed Saleh's body with a gaping head wound dumped in a pickup truck by rebels — a grisly end recalling that of longtime strongman Saleh's contemporary, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011.

Much is likely to depend on the future allegiances of Saleh loyalists who previously helped the Houthi group, which hails from the Zaidi branch of Shi'ite Islam that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962.

The Houthis and Saleh's forces began fighting each other in Sanaa last week. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

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