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DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemeni government forces have killed two Shi'ite rebel leaders in battles in the north of the country, a government website reported on Wednesday.
The rebels, who are also the target of a Saudi military campaign after they infiltrated into the top oil exporter's territory this month, say they suffer religious, economic and social marginalisation and neglect in the impoverished country.
They have accused Saudi Arabia of providing military support to the Yemeni government, a charge denied by Sanaa and Riyadh.
Government forces "inflicted massive losses in terms of casualties and equipment" in Tuesday's clash with the rebels, known as the Houthis, in the northern Saada province, the state-run website said.
Rebel leaders Abbas Aaida and Abu Haider were killed and another, Yousif al-Madani, was wounded but escaped, it added.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday an aid convoy had crossed from Saudi Arabia into northern Yemen, its second in about a month, and delivered supplies on Tuesday to Yemenis displaced by the fighting.
The convoy carried 200 family-size tents, enough to shelter more than 2,000 people, as well as blankets, plastic sheeting for shelter, mattresses, kitchen sets, soap and other hygiene items, said Andrej Mahecic, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva.
"It is very cold, these people need this type of assistance," he added.
In August, Yemen stepped up a military campaign against the rebels who belong to Yemen's Zaidi Shi'ite Muslim minority after about five years of sporadic battles with the group.
Saudi Arabia earlier this month launched an offensive against the rebels after they staged a cross-border raid during which they seized Saudi territory.
Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United States, fear al Qaeda militants are exploiting instability in Yemen, an impoverished country also grappling with separatist unrest in the south, to establish a stronger base for operations in the region.
(Reporting by Tamara Walid in Dubai and Robert Evans in Geneva)

Reuters