Al Mukalla: Yemeni rebels killed a senior loyalist officer on Wednesday and deadly clashes erupted elsewhere in the country despite a UN-brokered ceasefire, sources said.

The fragile truce has been in place since midnight on Sunday and is meant to lay the groundwork for peace talks next week in Kuwait.

The Shiite Al Houthi rebels, pro-government forces and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the country last year have all promised to abide by the ceasefire, but sporadic fighting has continued.

Loyalist military sources and medics said that a rebel sniper shot dead the commander of a pro-government army brigade, Major General Zaid Al Huri, on Wednesday in the northeast of the central Sana’a province.

Yemeni government forces and Al Houthis fought with heavy weapons on many fronts on the third day of UN-brokered truce aimed at ending year-long hostilities in the war-torn country.

Loyalists said on Wednesday that Al Houthis have been capitalising on the suspension of air raids by the Saudi-led coalition to marshal new troops and military equipment to the battlefields.

A tribal leader said Al Houthis amassed as many as 40 armoured vehicles in the northern province of Jawf before launching attacks on territories under the control of government forces in Metoun district.

The tribal leader who requested anonymity said the government forces managed to repel Al Houthis’ “aggressive” assault on Tuesday midnight in the district’s centre, but not before losing two of their fighters. The leader said the Houthis used cannons, Katyusha rockets and anti-aircraft guns in their assault.

Government military officials think that Al Houthis are trying to make the most of the absence of warplanes that gave their opponents superiority on the ground to add new areas to their shrinking territories in the province.

Unlike other fronts where loyalists make slow advance, tribesmen in Jawf have liberated most of the province and heading to borderlines with Sana’a and Saada provinces. Fighters in Marib also reported attacks on Wednesday by Al Houthis in Serwah district.

In the besieged Taiz, residents said on Wednesday that voices of thunderous explosions did not stop in the last couple of days as Al Houthis continue to hammer the city with shells. Zakaria Al Shara’abi, a local journalist who tracks Al Houthi violations, said he recorded 15 violations of the truce in Taiz since Tuesday midnight including shelling of residential areas and resistance fighters’ positions with mortar, tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Al Shara’abi added that a rocket fired by the rebels on Wednesday morning from the edge of the city burnt a house in the eastern side of the city.

Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, has been under a tight blockade by Al Houthis and army units loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh since early last year. The blockade failed to weaken Al Houthis’ military opponents who control downtown, but brought the city on the brink of starvation. Al Houthi official media rebuffed media reports about violating the ceasefire and accused government forces of attacking their sites in Taiz, Marib, Jawf and Shabwa. meanwhile quoted Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek Al Mikhlafi as confirming that the government will attend the peace talks in Kuwait, while criticising “Iranian interference in Yemen and its attempt to extend the conflict by sending arms” to rebels.

— With inputs from AFP