Three Yemeni army personnel and scores of Houthi militiamen and their allies were killed in Thursday clashes in Yemen’s Al-Jawf province on the first day of a UN-backed 72-hour ceasefire, according to pro-government sources.
“The Houthis violated the terms of the truce, attacking positions held by the army and [pro-government] resistance forces in Al-Jawf’s Maslub district,” Abdullah al-Ashraf, a spokesman for the army and pro-government “Popular Resistance” forces, told Anadolu Agency by phone.
He added that pro-government forces had retaliated by advancing on — and capturing — several positions held by the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Clashes between the two sides, he said, were still ongoing.
According to Saudi state media, a number of truce breaches were committed on Thursday by the Houthis and pro-Saleh forces.
Saudi Arabia’s Al-Akhbariya television channel alleged that violations had been reported in the Taiz and Al-Dali provinces and in eastern Sanaa’s Nihm district.
Speaking to Al-Akhbariya, Major-General Ahmed al-Asiri, spokesman for a Saudi-led Arab coalition that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen, warned that the coalition would respond to any “escalations” by the Houthis and their allies.
“We are aware of these [ceasefire] violations and will inform the relevant authorities, particularly the UN,” al-Asiri said, going on to say that coalition forces had been directed to “exercise restraint”.
He added that humanitarian aid deliveries to Yemen were not being hindered at Yemen’s ports, but asserted that areas of the country “under siege” by the Houthis were not receiving humanitarian assistance.
“The ceasefire will create the circumstances necessary for the delivery of aid shipments to besieged areas, especially Taiz province [in southwestern Yemen],” al-Asiri told the broadcaster.
On Monday, the UN unveiled a plan for a 72-hour truce between Yemen’s warring parties, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday.
The UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, for his part, said he had received assurances from all parties to the conflict that they would respect the terms of the truce.
In a related development, five Yemeni soldiers were killed in a Thursday attack on an army checkpoint in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, local medical sources told Anadolu Agency.
According to the sources, who spoke anonymously due to fears for their safety, the attack took place in the Amoudiya area on the road linking the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar.
No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s deadly attack.
The Yemeni army and pro-government forces took control of Abyan province in August after clearing it of Al-Qaeda militants, who had captured it some six months earlier.
Yemen has been racked by chaos since late 2014, when the Houthis and their allies overran capital Sanaa and other parts of the country, forcing members of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.
In March of last year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive military campaign aimed at reversing Houthi gains in Yemen and restoring the country’s embattled government.
Last week, the U.S. directly intervened in the conflict — for the first time — with a cruise-missile strike on Houthi targets in Yemen’s coastal Al-Hudaydah province.