Heavy exchange of fire destroys Saudi-Yemen border crossing
SANAA // Saudi forces and Yemen’s Houthi militia traded heavy artillery fire which destroyed part of the main border crossing between the two countries overnight, residents said on Sunday.
The Haradh border crossing – the largest for people and goods between Saudi Arabia and Yemen – was evacuated amid shelling which razed its departure lounge and passport section, witnesses said.
Residents of several Yemeni villages in the area left their homes and fled from the frontier, which has turned into a battlefront between the kingdom and the Iran-backed Houthis.
Fighting also continued iacross Yemen on Sunday, with airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hitting rebel targets in several cities including Sanaa, while street battles in the central city of Taez killed several civilians including four members of the same family.
Residents of Taez said Houthi forces and pro-Hadi fighters fired tank and artillery shells at each other throughout the city in the early hours of Sunday.
The Houthis seized control of a military base on a strategic mountaintop in the centre of the city, eyewitnesses said.
Security officials said the clashes in Taez saw errant artillery rounds repeatedly hitting residential areas, killing at least eight civilians. They added that air raids over the past day have struck over 30 military bases.
Resident Fahmy Abdul Qader said his cousin’s wife and three of her children were killed by shelling that hit the family home overnight in Taez.
In Sanaa, coalition air raids hit military bases and weapons stores in the capital and local officials said a mid-level Houthi commander, Abu Bassam Al Kibsi, was killed in an airstrike in the central province of Raymah.
Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition, which includes the UAE, in bombing the Houthis and backing southern Yemeni fighters opposing the group and loyal to the exiled government in Saudi Arabia headed by president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
The coalition believes the Shiite Houthis are a proxy for influence by their arch rival Iran, but the campaign has yet to reverse the rebels’ battlefield gains.
Local fighters combating the Houthis in Yemen’s south reported coalition airstrikes on a major air base controlled by the rebels in Lahj province and say they killed eight Houthi fighters in an ambush in Dhale province on Sunday.
Officials said aircraft also struck a Republican Guard base in Hodeidah province that had been seized by the Houthi rebels.
Warplanes also targeted rebels locked in combat with tribesmen in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, military officials said.
The fighting killed at least 28 people, including 17 Houthis and 11 tribesmen.
In Aden, clashes raged in the north, east and west of the southern port city between rebels and fighters loyal to Mr Hadi, military sources said.
A United Nations-backed peace conference set for thursday in Geneva remains in doubt, as Mr Hadi said his government will not take part in the talks unless the Houthis disarm and retreat from captured areas. The Houthis have demanded a ceasefire before any talks.
Mr Hadi set down his conditions in a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, said Saba, a Hadi-backed news agency operating from his place of exile in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Other demands included the release of prisoners, including defence minister Mahmud Al Subaihi.