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Yemeni air force bombs rebels after ceasefire collapses

10 Al Houthi fighters, five tribesmen and three soldiers killed in clashes

Gulf News

Sana’a: The Yemeni air force bombed rebels north of Sana’a on Saturday in fighting that caused “a large number of casualties”, local officials said, after a truce reached last month between the insurgents and government forces collapsed.

Al Houthi fighters, officially known as Ansarullah, blamed army units linked to the rival Islah party for breaking the June 23 ceasefire on Friday when government troops advanced on an area in Al Jouf province.

A Yemeni government official said the army’s advance on the town of Al Safra in the province northeast of Sana’a was prompted by the failure of Al Houthi fighters to vacate positions in the area in compliance with the ceasefire.

Tribal sources in Al Jouf province, which is partly controlled by the Al Houthi rebels, said at least 18 people — 10 Al Houthis, five tribesmen and three soldiers — were killed in clashes on Friday.

The fighting later expanded to the adjacent Omran province, where the Yemeni air force flew sorties and bombed Al Houthi positions around the provincial capital early on Saturday.

Local officials gave no precise figures for the number of casualties from the air strikes and fighting.

Despite appearing to falter after it took effect, the ceasefire had largely held with few reports of violations.

US-allied Yemen, an impoverished country of 25 million that shares a long border with the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been in turmoil since 2011 when mass protests forced veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

At least 200 people have been killed this year in battles pitting the Al Houthis — named after the tribe of their leader — against the government and Sunni tribal allies.

Officials say the Al Houthis, who have fought short but devastating wars with government forces since 2004, are getting weapons from Iran.

The Al Houthis deny this, saying they seek autonomy and less US interference in Yemen’s affairs.

The fighting in northern Yemen, which has taken on a sectarian tone, has further unsettled a country struggling to overcome many problems, including a secessionist movement in its restive south and the nationwide spread of Al Qaida insurgency.