Al Mukalla: At least seven civilians were killed or injured in heavy Al Houthi shelling of the Yemeni city of Taiz as government forces battled the rebels in Jawf, Dhale, Shabwa and Marib.

Local activists, who document Al Houthis’ daily attacks on the city, said on Tuesday that the rebel forces poured shells on many residential districts in the densely populated city, killing a number of civilians and causing damage and panic. The activists said the focus of shelling was the eastern part of the city.

Yemen’s third largest city has seen fiercest clashes between government forces and the rebel Al Houthis since the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing operation early last year. The rebels, who failed to take control of the city centre, imposed a siege on the city to force the government forces to give in. The siege has brought the city to the brink of starvation and the rebel forces’ almost daily shelling has killed hundreds of civilians and forced thousands to abandon their homes.

Government forces have recently scored a major victory by partly breaking the siege from the western side of the city and allowed trucks carrying humanitarian aid to cross into the city. Residents say people on the eastern, northern and southern sides of the city are still reeling under Al Houthi siege.

In the southern province of Lahj, local media reports said on Monday night that at least 40 Al Houthi fighters were killed or injured in clashes with the government forces in hilly regions bordering Taiz.

Al Masdar Online, an independent news site, reported that the rebel forces mounted an attack on government forces positions to regain control of strategic locations they lost in previous clashes. Five loyalists were killed while fighting off the Al Houthi assault.

Last week, an army commander in the area told Gulf News that his forces liberated rugged mountains in Lahj and were advancing into Taiz province.

Heavy clashes were also reported in the northern province of Jawf, Marib’s Serwah and in the district of Bayhan, Shabwa province. Similarly, warplanes of Saudi-led coalition struck many Al Houthi-held military sites in Jawf, Ibb, Saada, Taiz, Lahj and Marib.

The coalition’s warplanes and military experts have effectively enabled the government forces on the ground to turn the tide against Al Houthis and their ally ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces across the country. The government forces are now battling the rebel forces outside the capital.