Smoke rises from burning houses in the al-Sarari area after government forces captured it from Iran-allied Houthi militia in Taiz province, Yemen. Image Credit: Reuters

Al Mukalla: Government military officials in Yemen’s province of Taiz said on Wednesday that 12 Al Houthi fighters were killed and 15 injured in heavy clashes around a strategic village.

Colonel Mansour Al Hassani, a spokesperson for the Military Council in Taiz, told Gulf News that army troops and resistance fighters recaptured the village of Al Sarari and arrested 30 Al Houthis. “The village hosts a training camp for Al Houthis. They also use it to shell our positions. So we decided to mount a sudden military attack using medium machineguns,” he said.

The capture prompted the United Nations to call for a humanitarian truce in Taiz.

James McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, voiced alarm at increasing bloodshed in the southwestern Taiz Governorate, particularly Al Sarari area, and the closure of Taiz city, the regional capital.

He urged all warring parties to agree immediately to a “humanitarian pause” to protect civilians and cooperate with humanitarian agencies to help treat and evacuate war-wounded and deliver urgently needed medicines in the embattled zone.

McGoldrick warned both parties that holding civilian populations hostage and depriving them of humanitarian assistance were illegal under international humanitarian law.

Local journalists who visited the village on Tuesday posted photos of bodies of several Al Houthi fighters strewn on the ground.

Al Hassani said the village also overlooks a vital slope that residents take to evade Al Houthis’ siege to the city. “Al Houthis retaliated for their losses in Al Sarari by launching hysterical bombardment on Saber mountain and residential areas.”

Al Hassani said three of his fighters were killed and several injured in the blitz.

In the northern province of Jawf, Abdullah Al Ashraf, a spokesperson for Jawf resistance fighters, told Gulf News on Wednesday that three leading Al Houthi figures along with 15 fighters have surrendered to the government forces and vowed to convince the others to follow suit. “One of those leading figures is fighting Al Houthis in the front lines. We are trying to convince more leaders to switch sides.”

Al Ashraf said the Ministry of Defence has deployed two brigades in the province ahead of a major military operation on Al Houthis-controlled territories in the province of Amran and Saada. “Those soldiers were trained outside the province. They are now fighting with us to clear the remaining regions of Al Houthis.”

Government forces are in control of most of Jawf including the capital Hazem.

At least five people were killed and 20 injured when a bomb exploded inside Qat market in the province of Mareb. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Residents in the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, said on Wednesday that warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition launched air raids on buildings inhabited by Al Qaida militants. Other air strikes on Al Qaida military sites were reported on Tuesday in Jaar and Khanfar towns. Al Qaida overran some cities in Abyan and Shawba provinces last year shortly after the coalition-backed forces liberated them from Al Houthis.

— With inputs from Reuters