Government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthis in Yemen, have made progress in the mission to break the siege on Taiz, as violence erupts around the country.
Pro-government forces launched an operation to break a rebel siege on Yemen’s third city, Taiz on Wednesday, leaving at least five soldiers and 13 Houthis dead.
Yemeni soldiers attacked positions held by Houthi rebels from the east, west and north of the flashpoint southwestern city that has been under siege for more than a year.
The troops already made “a relative breakthrough” after rebels were driven out of several positions around the city. This was confirmed by pro-government activist, Abdel Majid al-Dhababi, who said troops had made progress after months of trying to break the siege of Taiz.
The army “practically succeeded in breaking the blockade from the west,” he told AFP, noting that the “road leading to Aden is still unsafe and this is preventing civilians from fleeing south.”
Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to be caught in the fierce battle for Taiz, despite loyalist forces backed by Saudi-led airstrikes breaking the siege in March before losing ground once again.
Meanwhile, Saudi-led coalition jets continue to pound rebel positions around the capital Sanaa on Thursday, scoring hits on three military camps held by the insurgents, military sources said.
In Abyan, an al-Qaeda suicide bomber killed four Yemeni soldiers and wounded four others on Thursday after government forces recaptured the towns of Loder and Moudia from al-Qaeda militants.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have exploited a power vacuum in Yemen to expand their presence in the country’s south and southeast.
The United States considers AQAP to be al-Qaeda’s deadliest franchise and has conducted a drone war against the group in Yemen.
The UN says more than 6,600 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since last March and more than 80 percent of the population needs humanitarian aid.