Yemen rebels continue attacks on final day of 72-hour truce
ADEN // Fierce gun battles erupted between Yemeni rebels and pro-government forces along the border with Saudi Arabia on the last day of a 72-hour ceasefire that never completely took hold.
Military officials said nine rebels and four government soldiers were killed in clashes on Saturday on the western outskirts of Midi, a north-western town close to the Saudi border and the Red Sea coast. The fighting erupted when troops advanced towards Midi in an attempt to recapture it.
Fighting on the ground fighting has raged largely unabated but air attacks on the capital, Sanaa, stopped and there were fewer Houthi missile strikes on Saudi Arabia, residents and local officials said. However the Saudi-led coalition backing the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi accused the Houthis of violating the ceasefire almost 1,000 times in the last 24 hours with mortar and armed attacks along Yemen’s border with the kingdom and in several Yemeni provinces.
General Ahmed Al Asseri, commander of the Saudi 4th Brigade on the border in Najran, said his forces were repelling a sustained Houthi ground attack. “The violation of the truce was not from our side. It was from the other side. We are continuing to thwart them,” he said. “In the last 48 hours there was an enormous push by the enemy against our territory.”
A senior rebel, Hassan Al Sharafi, was killed in border clashes in Saada province, the fiefdom of the Iran-backed Houthis, and five suspected Al Qaeda militants, including a local chief, were killed overnight on Friday in a suspected US drone strike in Marib province east of Sanaa, according to a security official.
The truce began at a minute to midnight on Wednesday to allow aid deliveries in Yemen, where the war has killed nearly 6,900 people and left three million homeless and hungry. United Nations special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he was liaising with the parties in a bid to extend the ceasefire in order “to create a conducive environment for a long-lasting peace”. But as the truce came to an end on Saturday night, his appeal for all parties “to show restraint, avoid further escalation, and strictly adhere to the 72-hour ceasefire” appeared to have fallen on largely deaf ears. Yemen’s vice-president Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar said government forces were complying but accused the rebels of 449 violations within the first 24 hours.
* Agence France Presse
Updated: October 22, 2016 04:00 AM