AL-MUKALLA: At least 23 people were killed in heavy combat between Yemeni government troops and Houthis in the southern province of Lahj on Sunday, as the Yemeni government criticized the militia for rejecting peace efforts to end the war.
The Houthis launched an attack on government troops in Lahj’s Yafae region, sparking heavy fighting that killed 15 Houthis, eight pro-government soldiers, and injured at least ten more.
Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesman for pro-independence southern forces that control Yafae, described the Houthi attacks on Yafae as the militia’s “biggest and bloodiest” attack in recent months, adding that their forces were able to repel the Houthis, forcing them to retreat after suffering heavy casualties.
“The Houthi militia’s assault on Yafae is a response to all concessions offered by the legitimate government and peace initiatives,” Al-Naqeeb told Arab News.
Since early last year, when the UN-brokered truce came into force, hostilities have drastically decreased, primarily outside the government-controlled city of Marib.
However, Yemeni government officials say that the Houthis have continued their fatal attacks on residential neighborhoods and military targets in Lahj, Marib and Taiz.
According to local press reports citing Houthi media, the Houthis have buried more than 4,000 fighters, killed on the battlefield since the beginning of this year.
The Houthi attack on Yafae occurred a day after a member of the Presidential Leadership Council, Sultan Al-Aradah, accused the Houthis of impeding peace efforts to end the war and reiterated the government’s threat to respond militarily to Houthi attacks on oil facilities.
Al-Aradah told a gathering of government officials in Marib on Saturday that the Houthis were attempting to lay siege to government-controlled areas by halting oil shipments and forcing local traders to abandon ports. He said that the Houthis were disintegrating from within and beset by major internal issues as Yemenis, particularly those who live in areas under their control, rejected their repressive rule and radical ideologies.
“We assure you, in the name of the political leadership, that we will restore our state, either through peace through the United Nations, which is what we are seeking, or through the valor of the armed forces, security, and popular resistance,” Aradah said.
Meanwhile, the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, said on Sunday that he had a virtual meeting with Ali Asghar Khaji, adviser to Iran’s foreign minister, in which they discussed gaining international support for attaining peace in Yemen.
“They discussed the progress of UN-led mediation &ways to strengthen concerted regional &international support to resume an inclusive political process under UN auspices,” Grundberg’s office said in a statement.
The UN envoy has increased his diplomatic efforts throughout the region in the hope of achieving a breakthrough that will allow the peace process in Yemen to resume, which was halted in October when the Houthis refused to renew the UN-brokered truce.
At the same time, a Yemeni government official told Arab News on Sunday that the present peace efforts, whether led by the UN envoy or Omani mediators, were aimed at persuading the Houthis to renew the truce and agree to end-of-war talks.
“The mediators are engaging in discussions with the Houthis in an effort to persuade them of certain outstanding details and what is required to renew the cease-fire and build on it to initiate a comprehensive political process, said the official, who requested anonymity.