x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dozens killed or injured in Yemen fighting

Government troops and Shia rebels in two northern provinces renewed their battles on Sunday, leading to fresh casualties.

Dozens of people were killed or wounded as fighting raged anew on Sunday between government troops and Shia rebels in the Omran and Saada provinces of northern Yemen, military sources said. "The army is bombarding Al Waqiya zone, north-east of Wadi Shabareq in Harf Sufyan," one source told AFP, adding that troops also managed to seize the nearby Ghalla region from the rebels. "There are dozens of killed and wounded in violent fighting which is under way in the region" of Omran province, dozens of kilometres north of the Zaidi rebels' mountainous stronghold of Saada, another military source said.

Military sources also reported fighting on the outskirts of Saada city in the Al Magaash, Al Iguab and Mahdhah districts. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes since August 11, when the government began its "scorched earth" offensive against the Zaidi rebels, also known as Huthis. The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said on Saturday that his government was prepared to fight Shia rebels in the mountainous north for "years," at a celebration marking the anniversary of the overthrow of the Zaidi imamate in 1962.

However, Mr Saleh said, the government was prepared to end its offensive if the rebels abided by a six-point truce tabled by the Sanaa government, demanding that they open roads, evacuate their positions and free captured civilians and soldiers. Two separate ceasefires have lasted just hours before fighting flared again. "It is a vicious war, a guerrilla war. We are facing a war of rebellion and destruction. If it were a systematic war, the matter would have been settled," Mr Saleh said.

The government accuses the rebels of wanting to restore the Shia imamate, which was replaced by a republic after a coup in 1962 which sparked eight years of civil war. Yemen also accuses the rebels of being backed by Iran, a charge they deny while alleging in turn that Sanaa has brought in Saudi air force planes to support the army. The United Nations has warned that food supplies are running out at its camps for displaced people, and estimates that 55,000 people have fled their homes since the offensive began six weeks ago.

The government accuses the rebels of hindering aid agencies by blocking essential roads and using civilians as human shields. * AFP