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YEMEN’S NORTHERN TROOPS FIRE ROCKETS INTO BESIEGED ADEN

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Northern forces fired two rockets into the besieged southern stronghold of Aden on Thursday, the southerners said after saying they repelled a major assault and inflicted "hundreds" of casualties on the north.

Aden radio said its anti-aircraft defenses shot down one of the missiles. It said the other missile exploded in a residential area, wounding three people and damaging houses as Yemen's civil war entered its eighth week.Quoting military sources, it said earlier that northern forces unleashed a barrage of artillery and rocket fire on the port city Wednesday, with air strikes supporting infantry and armored formations assaulting the heavily defended secessionist stronghold.

Southern fighters "prevented any advance by the enemy and forced him to withdraw and abandon numerous occupied positions," the radio said.

It said northern assault units suffered "hundreds of killed or wounded." As usual, it made no mention of the south's battlefield losses.

The reported assault apparently followed southern leader Ali Salim al-Beidh's vow Wednesday never to return to the short-lived union with the dominant north. It fell apart when war erupted May 4. Beidh proclaimed the south's secession May 20.

Beidh's defiant stand appeared to rule out any prospect of a negotiated settlement or a reconciliation with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the northern leader, following the collapse of U.N. mediation efforts several days ago.

Socialist South Yemen merged with conservative, tribal North Yemen in May 1990, introducing the first multi-party democracy on the Arabian peninsula.

But the union, though popular among Yemen's 14 million people, collapsed amid the vendetta between Saleh and Beidh.