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Amnesty calls for U.N. inquiry into Yemen's bloody conflict

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Nations should investigate violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides in Yemen’s civil war, Amnesty International said on Friday, six months after the start of a Saudi-led military campaign against Houthi forces.

People walk past a headgear lying on the ground at the al-Balili mosque after two bombings at the mosque in Yemen's capital Sanaa, September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

More than 4,500 people have been killed in Yemen since March, according to U.N. figures, when Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim Arab states launched a military campaign to drive back Houthi forces and restore a government which fled abroad.

Months of air strikes have pushed the Houthis out of the southern port city of Aden, but a ground offensive aimed at the capital Sanaa further north has made little progress and civilian casualties have mounted as the fighting continues.

“The organization is urging the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry into violations and abuses committed by all parties to the Yemen conflict, at the current Human Rights Council session in Geneva which concludes on 2 October,” Amnesty said.

“With no end to this deadly conflict in sight and a spiraling humanitarian crisis, civilian suffering is at an all-time high.”

The Saudi-led alliance bombed two houses in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people, a day after similar raids killed around 50 people.

Saba, the Houthi-controlled state news agency, said at least 236 people have been killed in air strikes since last week.

Amnesty said that the vast majority of civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition and accused the Arab forces of using cluster bombs, which are banned by most countries.

The rights group also said that “grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law” have been committed by the Houthis and their opponents.

Almost daily air raids by Saudi-led forces have escalated since the Houthis fired a missile at a coalition base in central Marib province on Sept. 4, killing more than 60 soldiers, most of them from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE pledged to push ahead with the coalition offensive to dislodge the Houthis - seen by U.S.-allied Sunni Muslim Gulf states as a proxy for would-be Iranian expansion in the Arabian Peninsula - from Sanaa.

The Houthis deny such links and say they are waging war against corruption and misrule in Yemen.

International human rights groups have voiced concern at the growing number of civilians killed in the intensifying air war.

Aid groups have complained that a coalition naval blockade has stopped relief supplies entering Yemen.

Across the country, a humanitarian crisis is escalating and more than 1.4 million people have been displaced from their homes, Amnesty said.

Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Dominic Evans