Dozens of people were killed and wounded in clashes between Shiite rebels and the army overnight after a short-lived ceasefire broke down a Yemeni military source said today. "The armed forces and rebels engaged in violent clashes overnight which continued until dawn on Saturday in Malaheez and Hafr Sufyan" in Saada province, the source told AFP in Sanaa by telephone. "Dozens of people have been killed and wounded in both camps," the source added, without elaborating. No official confirmation of the toll was available.
Despite the government on Friday announcing a ceasefire in its "Scorched Earth" offensive against Zaidi rebels, "the rebels planned an attack on army positions, and the army responded," another military source said. The government suspended its three-week offensive on Friday evening, hoping to ease the work of aid agencies in ensuring the safety of civilians, and calm briefly returned to the mountainous Saada province, stronghold of the rebels.
But the ceasefire did not last long, as government security officials said the insurgents, also known as Huthis, resumed operations overnight. The rebels "broke (the ceasefire) and resumed their acts of sabotage in the Malaheez and Hafr Sufyan regions" of Saada, a spokesman for Yemen's senior security commission said in a statement published early today. "They will suffer the consequences" of their actions, he said, adding that the rebels broke the ceasefire less than four hours after the government announced the suspension of military operations at 6pm GMT.
The brief halt in hostilities came hours after the military said three rebel leaders were killed in a dawn attack on Friday in Malaheez. The ceasefire was announced in response to requests from aid agencies and to an offer from the rebels to co-operate in that effort, the senior security commission said. An offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Zaidis are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority community in the north. They want to restore the inmate overthrown in a 1962 coup.