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Yemeni rebel rockets kill three at government hospital

Attack in Marib city came as Houthi shelling in Taez province forced hundreds of villagers to flee their homes.

ADEN // Houthi shelling killed three civilians at a hospital in eastern Yemen on Sunday and forced hundreds to flee their homes in the south-east.

Officials said a doctor was among the dead after the Iran-backed rebels fired rockets at a government hospital in Marib province.

The attack also wounded 17 people, said the director of the Marib General Hospital Authority, Shawqi Al Sharjabi.

A government official in Marib city said the rockets were fired from the Haylan mountains overlooking the provincial capital during a visit by a government delegation.

Pro-government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels for more than a year, have retaken most of the Marib province from the rebels.

However, the Houthis still control northern and western parts of the oil-rich province east of the capital Sanaa, which they have held since September 2014.

The rebels and pro-goverment forces are also waging fierce battles for control of Taez province.

Hundreds of people fled their villages after the Houthis seized the centre of Al Wazeyah district, south of Taez city, on Saturday and began shelling surrounding areas.

Khalid Al Bokairi, a teacher in Rasen village, said the rebels had now over Al Wazeyah completely and were targeting the villages to control the whole district.

“The residents cannot live under the shelling of the Houthis, so they were forced to leave for surrounding villages in Al Shimayateen district such as Bani Omar, Bani Shaiba, Rasen and Al Alaqimah.”

He said hundreds had fled, leaving all their possessions behind and were sheltering in schools, and more people were leaving the area as the shelling continued into Sunday.

Moa’ath Al Yaseri, a leader of the pro-government Popular Resistance in the province, said his fighters were forced to retreat because of lack of ammunition.

“We are trying hard to send reinforcements to Al Wazeyah but there is a lack of ammunition and military vehicles, so we are calling the government to support us,” he said.

He said the resistance could recapture the centre of Al Wazeyah if it received the supplies, otherwise the rebels would be able to advance into Lahj province, which borders the district.

The fighting comes ahead of a ceasefire scheduled to start on April 10, to be followed by UN-mediated talks in Kuwait from April 18 between the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and the rebels, who are allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said last week that Yemen’s warring parties were close to resolving the year-long conflict.

“There is significant progress in negotiations, and we have good contacts with the Houthis, with a delegation currently in Riyadh,” Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg. “We are pushing to have this opportunity materialise on the ground but if things relapse, we are ready.”

Previous UN-sponsored negotiations between the rebels and the government failed to make any headway, and a ceasefire announced for December 15 was repeatedly violated before it was abandoned on January 2.

The United Nations says about 6,300 people have been killed in the war since March, more than half of them civilians, and more than 80 per cent of the population is on the brink of famine.


* With reporting from Agence France-Press and Bloomberg

Updated: April 4, 2016 04:00 AM