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

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

Fighting has intensified since former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an erstwhile Houthi ally who had turned on the group, was killed in an attack on his convoy last week.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have held dozens of journalists captive for days at a television station in the capital and a media watchdog has demanded their immediate release. Speaking before the large rally, al-Houthi said that Saleh was "deceived... we hadn't hoped for what happened".

Both Saleh and Houthis benefited from their four-year alliance as Saleh got Houthis manpower and firepower while Houthis gained from Saleh's governing and intelligence networks.

A video circulating on social media showed fully-veiled women chanting "The people want the martyr's body".

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, the head of Yemen's internationally recognised government, moved to take advantage of the chaos by ordering an offensive to retake the capital.

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The gruesome images from the previous day sent shockwaves among Saleh's followers - a grisly end recalling that of his contemporary, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011.

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

Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, in a lengthy speech aired on the Houthis' TV network al-Masirah, described Saleh's killing as a "historic defeat to the forces of the coalition", referring to the Saudi-led alliance of Arab states fighting them.

The killing of Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh by the country's Shiite rebels as their alliance crumbled has thrown the almost three-year civil war into unpredictable new chaos.

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.

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Saleh, who ruled in Sana'a from 1978-2012, had a strong following in Yemen, including army officers and armed tribal leaders who once served under him.

The war and blockade has plunged Yemen into a major humanitarian disaster, leaving 20 million people in need of aid.

The Houthis and Saleh's forces began fighting each other in Sanaa last week.

However, in late November, the tensions between the former allies escalated and resulted in clashes that have already claimed lives of hundreds of people, including the ex-president himself.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Tuesday, more than 230 people have been killed and around 400 injured in the Yemen war since the beginning of this month.

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Jamie McGoldrick of United Nations aid agency OCHA says civilians in Sanaa are "emerging from their houses after five days being locked down, basically prisoners", to seek safety, medical care, fresh water and other survival needs.

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