SANAA/Cairo - A Saudi-led air strike on a Huthi Shiite rebel stronghold in Yemen’s northern mountains killed 23 people early on Saturday, tribal sources said.

The strike targeted a munitions factory in Saqayn, near Saada, the sources said. Coalition aircraft also bombed the rebel-held capital Sanaa, targeting an arms warehouse and the air defence headquarters, witnesses said. The coalition launched air strikes against the rebels in March, after the Huthis seized control of much of the country prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to take refuge in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. In the meanwhile, Yemen’s dominant Houthi movement said on Saturday a pause in fighting to last until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was under discussion with the United Nations to allow for deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said in a post on his Facebook page he had met UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Friday to discuss the matter. An Arab coalition has been bombarding Iran-allied Houthi forces and allied army units since March in a campaign to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power.

The UN envoy is also holding discussions with the pro-Hadi government in Saudi Arabia to push for a pause, sources said. The US State Department on Thursday called for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict during Ramadan to allow international aid groups to deliver urgently needed food, medicine and fuel.

The European Union said on Friday it supported UN efforts to secure a lasting, predictable and sustainable humanitarian ceasefire and demanded that Saudi-led forces ease restrictions on entry of ships to Yemeni ports. “The details are still unclear in terms of a starting date and duration of a humanitarian pause; however the special envoy believes that there is ground for optimism that the parties will agree in the coming days,” said UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

Both sides largely observed a five-day truce brokered by the United Nations in May to allow in fuel and medicine to civilians trapped in conflict zones. The Houthis captured the Yemeni capital Sanaa last September, pushing Hadi’s government aside and began expanding south and westwards. The president fled the port of Aden in March after the Houthis advanced on his southern stronghold.

The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency said 13 shells had been launched on Friday, targetting several areas including Jizan’s airport. The shelling also led to the destruction of military equipment, the agency said, quoting an unnamed military source. The source did not say how many Saudi soldiers had been killed.

An alliance of Gulf Arab nations has been bombing Yemen’s Houthi militia and allied army units loyal to powerful ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26 in an attempt to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. Saudi forces and the Houthis have been trading fire across the border since the Arab alliance began its military operations. Saudi-led air strikes killed at least 16 people in Yemen on Friday as the European Union and United States appealed for a pause in the war to enable aid deliveries to stricken civilians.