AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni government forces and southern separatists traded mortar and cannon fire in the southern province of Abyan on Tuesday, despite a truce and diplomatic talks in Saudi Arabia, local officials said.
Separatists said the government launched an offensive on their forces in the Al-Taryia region in Abyan, which triggered heavy clashes and resulted in deaths on both sides.
“They launched a big offensive from Shouqra, hours after agreeing to the truce. We are committed to the truce and implementing the Riyadh Agreement as long as the government abides by it,” Nizar Haytham, a spokesperson for the Southern Transitional Council (STC), told Arab News.
He added that STC forces acted in self-defense and that a Saudi-led committee had been formed to monitor the truce.
Government forces accused separatists of attacking their positions with artillery and heavy machine guns and said they only acted in response.
“Fighting has not stopped for even one hour since the truce was announced,” an army officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News from Abyan.
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday that its Aden hospital treated more than 20 people who were injured in the fighting.
The Yemeni government and separatists have clashed since early 2018, when the government accused separatists of obstructing ministers’ movements in the port city of Aden, the country’s interim capital.
In August, separatists expelled the government from Aden, prompting loyalists into regrouping in Abyan and launching a counterattack.
Seeking to broker peace, Saudi Arabia oversaw a peace deal in November, known as the Riyadh Agreement.
Under the deal, both sides would disarm and withdraw personnel from Aden, Abyan and Shabwa, as the internationally recognized president names a new government and governors.
Western diplomats and Yemeni politicians have praised the Saudi-brokered agreement for including the separatists in the decision-making process and allowing the Yemeni government to operate from Aden.
“By implementing it the Yemeni government and STC will be in a situation where they are united in a newly formed government where they both feel they have adequate representation. The STC have been demanding a place at the UN talks and the Riyadh Agreement offers them a place at the table as part of the delegation,” Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, told Arab News.
The UN Yemen envoy has attempted to forge a peace deal that would put an end to the war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Fighting also continued in northern Yemen, where government try to repel attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi militias, in Marib, Jawf and Al-Bayda.
On Tuesday, Yemen’s defense ministry announced the death of Brig. Gen. Naji Ali Hanshel, a senior military officer killed in battle against Houthi militias.