Marib (Yemen) (AFP) – At least 35 pro-government fighters have been killed in clashes with rebels near the Yemeni capital in the first three days of a UN-brokered ceasefire, military sources said Thursday.
The rebels attacked positions of Gulf-backed loyalist fighters in Nihm, northeast of Sanaa, where clashes have occurred for two weeks despite warring parties promising to abide by a ceasefire that took effect last Sunday at midnight.
A number of Iran-backed rebels were also killed in fighting that erupted after the attack on Wednesday, the sources said.
Twenty-six loyalist fighters have been killed in the Nihm region and another nine around Sarwah in Marib province to the east of Sanaa, according to the military sources.
The fragile truce is meant to pave the way for peace talks next Monday in Kuwait.
In the southern loyalist-held province of Shabwa, rebels on Wednesday fired a mortar round on a village, killing three children aged between six and 10, according to a provincial official.
Separately, Saudi-led coalition helicopters struck suspected Al-Qaeda members on Wednesday in Huta, capital of the southern Lahj province, killing eight, security officials said.
The strikes targeted government buildings, a stadium and two homes where suspected jihadists were hiding, the officials said.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-dominated Arab allies are backing the Yemeni government in the conflict while Shiite Iran supports the rebel Huthis, who have seized the capital Sanaa and other parts of the country.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have taken advantage of the chaos caused by the war to strengthen their grip on southern Yemen.
Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have launched operations against jihadists in recent weeks, backed by the firepower of the Arab coalition.
The war has left more than 6,300 people dead since March 2015 and worsened living conditions, with more than 80 percent of the population now on the brink of famine.