Ground Fighting Rages On in Yemen Ahead of Ceasefire

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
December 14, 2015 Updated: December 14, 2015

SANAA, Yemen—Fierce fighting was underway between forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the country’s Shiite rebels just hours before an agreed-on truce was supposed to start at midnight Monday, officials said.

The clashes, which were taking place in Yemen’s southern, central and western provinces, killed a total of 32 people, including 10 civilians, according to the security and medical officials.

There were also at least 16 people wounded across the country, said the officials who have remained neutral in Yemen’s civil war. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Over the weekend, the warring sides had agreed to lay down their weapons at five minutes to midnight Monday—the eve of planned peace talks in Geneva. According to the deal, the truce is to last a week.

Yemen’s conflict, which pits rebels known as Houthis and army units loyal to a former president against a loose alliance of pro-government forces, southern separatists and other militants, has killed at least 5,878 people since March, when the fighting escalated after a Saudi-led air campaign began targeting the rebels, according to the United Nations.

Previous truces and U.N.-brokered talks to resolve the conflict have ended in failure, with the government demanding the implementation of a U.N. resolution calling on the Houthis to return arms seized from the state and withdraw from territory they had captured over the past year, including the capital, Sanaa.

The Houthis want broader negotiations on the country’s political future.

Also Monday, the rebels fired a long-range missile at a secret headquarters of the pro-government military leadership close to the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab, killing two senior coalition officials, the Houthis said in a statement.

Pro-government military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations, confirmed the hit and the two casualties. The attack suggested the rebels have improved intelligence, the officials said.

The Saudi Press Agency earlier reported that two coalition senior officers were killed in an attack near Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz. The two were identified as Saudi Col. Abdullah Mohammed al-Sahyan and Emirati officer Sultan Mohammed Ali al-Ketb.

The Emirati state news agency WAM separately confirmed al-Ketbi’s death. Neither agency said how the two were killed and it was not immediately clear if it was the same attack as the one that targeted the secret coalition headquarters.