Yemen truce in tatters

2015-12-18 17:15
A tribal fighter takes position during fighting with Shi’ite rebels onthe outskirts of Taiz, Yemen. (Abdulnasser Alseddik, AP)

A tribal fighter takes position during fighting with Shi’ite rebels onthe outskirts of Taiz, Yemen. (Abdulnasser Alseddik, AP)

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Aden - A Yemen ceasefire appeared to have collapsed on  Friday as government forces captured two towns from rebels and the Saudi-led coalition accused the Iran-backed insurgents of firing two ballistic missiles.

The truce has been repeatedly violated and the coalition warned on Friday that it was close to abandoning the agreement, which was aimed at helping parallel UN-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland.

Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and allied tribesmen on Friday captured Hazm, the capital of northern Jawf province, after making significant gains in the neighbouring region of Marib, tribal sources said.

A day earlier government troops captured the border town of Haradh after crossing over from Saudi Arabia, where they have been trained and equipped, military sources said.

About 1 000 soldiers are involved in the operation in Haradh, an official said, adding that "intensive fighting took place" in the town, which has a population of around 25 000 people.

He said dozens of renegade troops allied with the Iran-backed Huthi Shi'ite rebels had been killed.

The advancing force is now just a few kilometres away from the Red Sea port of Midi, which has been under rebel control since 2010, military sources said.

Clashes have been frequent along the border with Saudi Arabia, where rebel strikes have killed more than 80 people since March when the coalition campaign against the rebels began.

Missiles fired at Saudi 

The coalition said on Friday that Saudi air defences had intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, while another struck a desert area east of the Saudi city of Najran.

The coalition warned that the ceasefire would not hold if violations persisted.

Although the alliance wants the talks to succeed, "it will not adhere to the truce for long given the threat to the kingdom's territory", it said.

In 2014, the Huthis advanced from their northern strongholds before occupying government buildings in Sana'a in September that year and forcing Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia months later.

In mid-November this year, Hadi returned to second city Aden which he declared the provisional capital.

Under cover of coalition warplanes and backed by Arab soldiers and heavy weaponry, pro-government fighters have recaptured four southern provinces and Aden since July.

But the rebels still hold the capital and attempts by pro-Hadi forces to retake the strategic province of Taiz have failed.

Delegates at the peace talks being held behind closed doors in Switzerland agreed on Thursday a deal to immediately resume humanitarian aid to Taiz city, the UN said.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed welcomed the agreement as "a major step forward that will ensure immediate action to alleviate the human suffering of the Yemeni people".

"A large UN convoy, carrying essential humanitarian supplies, reached the most affected districts of the city of [Taiz] and will start distributing assistance to those in need in the coming days," the statement said.

But a local relief group in Taiz said that no UN aid had reached the city, accusing rebels and allied renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of blocking aid delivery to areas where Hadi loyalists are holed up.

The Humanitarian Relief Coalition said aid was "still outside the city and has been stored by the World Food Programme in unknown places", according to a statement carried by the government's Saba news agency.

The UN said issues on the agenda at the talks in Switzerland over the coming days would include developing a plan for a sustainable ceasefire and the release of prisoners.

More than 5 800 people have been killed in Yemen - about half of them civilians - and more than 27 000 wounded since March, according to the UN.

Read more on:    yemen

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