Sanaa (Yemen): Fierce fighting and airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition pounded northern Yemen, as the two main parties in the country’s conflict continued to violate a ceasefire agreement and undermine already tenuous peace talks in Switzerland.
The clashes in Hajjah Province near the Saudi border between rebel-allied units and pro-government Yemeni forces have killed more than 75 over the past three days, Yemeni security officials and witnesses said.
The dead included more than 40 rebels and 35 government troops, with 50 wounded on the rebel side and dozens wounded on the government side. Dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles were destroyed, according to the witnesses and security officials, who remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered the Arab world’s poorest country.
The government troops advanced across the border from Saudi territory after training there for months, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to brief reporters.
Yemen’s fighting pits the internationally recognised government backed by a Saudi-led, US-supported coalition against the rebels, known as Houthis, who are allied with a former president and backed by Iran. Local affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have exploited the chaos to grab land and exercise influence.
According to UN figures, the war in Yemen has killed at least 5,884 people since March, when fighting escalated after the Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes targeting the rebels.
Fighting in Yemen has continued despite a weeklong cease-fire agreement that went into effect on Tuesday. By Wednesday, at least 42 people had been killed in clashes along several front lines, underscoring the difficulties of achieving progress at the UN-brokered peace talks in the Swiss village of Macolin.
On Friday, the Yemeni rebel delegation suspended meetings with the internationally recognised government in protest over its cease-fire violations. The Houthis said they would not resume talks unless the UN condemned breaches by government forces, delegates at the talks told AP.
A member of the Houthi delegation said UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed had “promised to condemn the government and then he did not.”
A government delegate said: “They are using the ceasefire as an excuse although they were the first to break it.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.