SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Violent clashes between Houthi rebel troops and pro-government Yemeni forces have killed at least 8 people, a security official confirmed Friday. The new wave of violence comes amid heightened tensions after last week’s failure to extend a ceasefire between the warring parties.
The official said firefights broke out Thursday night in the disputed area of western Yafa, killing four soldiers on each side and wounding five others. Local witnesses said Houthi troops and forces from the Southern Transitional Council, which is backed by the UAE and is a major pillar of the Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen, deployed machine guns and mortars during the clashes. .
Yemen’s ruinous conflict began in 2014 when Houthi forces backed by Iran seized the capital, Sanaa. In response, a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.
The failure to extend the national truce last Sunday threatened to reignite the bloody civil war after a six-month hiatus in frontline fighting. The Houthis blamed the stalled negotiations on the UN, which facilitated the ceasefire talks, while the US envoy to Yemen accused the rebel group of derailing the talks with demands for last minute.
As Sunday’s deadline for a renewed deal passed, the two sides reportedly deployed reinforcements to the frontline towns of Marib and Taiz and exchanged fire in the western governorate of Al Dhalea. None of these reports after the ceasefire could be immediately confirmed by The Associated Press.
Houthi forces and parts of the Southern Transitional Council blamed each other for sparking Thursday’s violence, officials said. The officials and witnesses spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The Southern Transitional Council is an umbrella group of heavily armed and well-funded militias supported by the United Arab Emirates since 2015. The group, which controls most of southern Yemen, has repeatedly pushed to divide the country into two as was the case between 1967 and 1990.
In August, council militias seized vital oil and gas deposits in the south controlled by other fighting forces from the Saudi-led coalition. Recent infighting and clashes between militias loyal to the council and other groups serving under different factions of the Saudi coalition have left dozens dead.
The UN-backed truce came into effect in April and initially included the partial opening of the capital’s airport and the port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea, as well as the lifting of the Houthi blockade on the third largest city in the country, Taiz. However, disagreements over the opening and control of Taiz’s main entry routes meant the city remained under a Houthi-imposed siege. Both sides have reported numerous violations of the April ceasefire agreement.
The regional proxy war killed more than 150,000 people according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The fighting has turned Yemen into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, plunging the Middle East’s poorest country into near starvation.