x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Clashes erupt after Yemen truce collapses

Yemeni troops and Shiite rebels continue to clash two days after a short-lived truce collapsed.

Heavy clashes erupted between Yemeni troops and Shiite rebels in the rugged mountainous north, military officials and witnesses said, two days after a short-lived truce collapsed. Army tanks fired as armoured cars blocked the entrances to the narrow allies of the old city in Saada, stronghold of the Zaidi rebels seeking to end the current form of government, the officials said. The rebels returned fire on the army from a hideout in a fortress overlooking the old town. Shops were closed and residents stayed indoors.

The fighting intensified on Saturday, leaving dozens of people dead or injured in the north of Yemen, according to military officials. On Friday, the government said it would observe a ceasefire in response to requests from aid agencies to help ensure the safety of civilians and to an offer from the rebels to co-operate in that effort. But fighting resumed only four hours after the truce was declared.

The rebels today accused the government of preventing civilians displaced by the fighting from returning to their homes, using them in the battle. "The government is not looking to apply a ceasefire but is trying to mislead and trick in order to use the issue of the displaced and those harmed (by the fighting) to get military assistance to the (army's) besieged positions in Saada and Amran," the rebels said in a statement.

They said the government had bombarded Amran province with rockets and fired artillery on areas there. There is no official toll of casualties incurred since government forces launched operation "Scorched Earth" on August 11 against the rebels, who are loyal to leader Abdul-Malek al-Huthi and who the government alleges are supported by Iran. UNHCR said in a briefing on Friday that civilians, including 35,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), in and around Saada remain trapped by the fighting and are unable to reach safer parts of the country.

Thousands have died and the United Nations estimates about 150,000 have been displaced in intermittent fighting between the central government and rebels since 2004. *AFP