Yemen loyalists inflict heavy losses on rebels in Sanaa
ADEN // Yemeni loyalists killed at least 20 Iran-backed rebels on Saturday in a pushback against Houthi rebels seeking to retake positions to the north-east of the capital they control, military sources said.
“The Houthis on Friday launched an offensive in the direction of Jabal Al Salb in Nihm” district of Sanaa province, “but were repelled on Saturday morning”, a loyalist commander said.
“At least 20 Houthis were killed” since Friday night, another military source said.
He added that loyalists also died, but he did not give a death toll.
Last week, pro-government forces captured the Jabal Al Salb area 40 kilometres outside Sanaa.
Loyalists and the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition supporting them have sent troops, armoured vehicles and tanks to reinforce the district.
Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets led dawn raids on rebel positions in Majzar area in neighbouring Jawf province to the north, which is mostly under loyalist control, a spokesman for the pro-government Popular Resistance militia said.
Loyalist forces advanced in Ghayl area in the same province, around 20 kilometres north-east of Majzar, Mohamed Al Behaih added.
Air strikes also targeted rebel positions in Baqim and Kitaf areas in Saada province, the Houthis’ stronghold in northern Yemen, loyalist military sources said.
Meanwhile, rebel rocket fire hit residential areas of the south-western city of Taez, causing “several casualties”, a military source said.
Two rebels and two loyalists died in clashes in the city’s southern and western districts, while six more Houthis died in an ambush in Maqbana to the north-west of the city, the source said.
The largest hospital in Taez, which is under rebel seige, has closed due to “all its medicine and surgical materials running out”, the hospital’s management said on Saturday.
During peace talks last week, both sides had agreed to “allow for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance” into Taez.
But this aid “never reached residents in the centre of Taez, as Houthis seized it to give it to their supporters,” said Abdelkarim Shamsan, the head of a local humanitarian organisation.
Fighting persists in Yemen exactly nine months since the coalition entered the war to support president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, despite his government announcing the extension of a repeatedly violated ceasefire earlier this week.
The rebels seized Sanaa last year and then advanced south to second city Aden, forcing Mr Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Following territorial gains by loyalists, Mr Hadi returned to Aden in November after six months in exile.
The conflict has escalated dramatically since March 26, with nearly 6,000 people killed according to UN figures.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: December 26, 2015 04:00 AM