Saudi Arabia, which is leading air strikes against rebels in neighboring Yemen, has warned the United Nations and international aid groups to protect staff by removing them from areas held by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a letter seen by Reuters said. It was not immediately clear why Saudi Arabia issued the warning and how many aid groups aside from the United Nations, received the note. The Saudi U.N. mission was not immediately available for comment. The short note sent by the Saudi Embassy in London on Friday said the intention was to “protect the international organizations and their employees” presumably from coalition airstrikes. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of nine Arab countries that began a military campaign in March to prevent Houthi rebels, whom it sees as a proxy for Iran, from taking complete control of Yemen. U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien acknowledged receipt of the note in a Sunday letter seen by Reuters and said the humanitarian community would continue to deliver aid across Yemen impartially on the basis of need. He reminded Saudi Arabia of obligations under international humanitarian law to facilitate access for aid. The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the humanitarian situation in Yemen on Tuesday at the request of Russia, diplomats said. The Houthis and their allies, forces loyal to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, accuse the coalition of launching a war of aggression. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since the coalition entered the conflict in March, almost half of them civilians.
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