Houthi representatives at peace talks in Switzerland have denied breaching an agreed truce in Taiz and northern Yemen
AL MUKALLA, Yemen - Attempts to secure peace in Yemen were under threat on Tuesday evening, with a fragile ceasefire agreed between pro-government and Houthi forces apparently breached multiple times in its first hours.
Medical and pro-government sources in the central Mareb province told the AFP news agency that Houthi fighters had killed 15 pro-government fighters and injured 20 others in fighting after the ceasefire came into effect at midday (9am GMT).
“Houthis militias breached the truce by attacking many positions controlled by the resistance in Jadaan Mas region and killed many fighters from Sanaa resistance,” Abdul Kareem Thouael, a member the Mareb-based Sanaa resistance told Middle East Eye.
Residents in the city of Taiz, who have seen fierce fighting in recent weeks, also reported that Houthis and their allied forces began shelling residential areas and enemy positions. It is unclear if there were any casualties.
Zakaria al-Sharaabi, a Taiz resident and anti-Houthi journalist, told MEE that Houthis began firing on the city with anti-aircraft guns shortly after the truce began.
“Houthis forces stationed in the hills pounded some districts in the city. At 12.24pm they fired a rocket from al-Kandra region at the mountain of Saber [under control of resistance fighters].”
Later in the afternoon, Sharaabi said, the Houthis stormed a local college and have prevented people from entering parts of the city, while also firing some mortar shells into the Senah district.
Residents in Taiz also talked about heavy clashes erupting in the afternoon as Houthi fighters attempted to advance into areas controlled by pro-government forces.
The reports of fighting threaten to undermine peace negotiations in Switzerland between the Houthis and the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi promised a ceasefire last week before talks began, a condition he had previously dismissed.
Delegates from the Saudi-led coalition supporting Hadi told MEE that fighting has been rocking Taiz for much of the day, although Houthi representatives denied the reports and insisted they were sticking to the ceasefire.
— Nawal Al-maghafi (@BBCNawalMaghafi) December 15, 2015
Talks between in Geneva collapsed in June as the government insisted the rebels should accept a UN Security Council resolution that obliges them to pull out of cities, hand over arms to the state and allow the government, which was working in exile in Saudi Arabia, to return to Yemen.
Clashes intensified subsequently as the government forces backed by Saudi-led coalition took the offensive and managed to drive the rebels out of the strategic port city of Aden and a large swathe of land the restive south.
Recent figures by the UN have showed that the war has killed 5,884 people since March and left millions of people in dire need of aid.
Additional reporting by Nawal al-Maghafi in Switzerland