More than 50 dead in heavy Yemen fighting after peace moves falter
Heavy fighting between government forces and rebels in north and west Yemen has left 51 dead, as a new peace efforts appeared to stumble, military officials said on Thursday.
Forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi have clashed since Tuesday with Houthi rebels and allied renegade troops in the country's northwest, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, head of the anti-Houthi coalition, said on Thursday that military operations in Yemen will continue, despite calls for a ceasefire.
"Until now there is no demand from the legitimate government (of Yemen) to observe a ceasefire," coalition chief Major General Ahmed Assiri told AFP.
"Consequently, the operations of the Yemeni army, supported by the coalition, will continue."
Planes from the Saudi-led coalition on Thursday pounded Saada, the northern stronghold of the rebel Houthi movement.
There have also been fierce clashes on the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Taiz in southwest Yemen, where pro-Hadi forces are pushing a three-day offensive to recapture the city's presidential residence and police headquarters, both currently under rebel control.
Four soldiers and five rebels have so far been killed in the fighting there.
Clashes also intensified as pro-Hadi troops launched an attack on three fronts to recapture the coastal town of Midi and nearby Haradh, the officials said.
Fifteen loyalists and 23 rebels were killed in the fighting, the officials said.
"Our military operations will continue until we push them out," said army Colonel Abdul Ghani al-Shubaili, whose forces had air support from a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in Yemen since the Arab coalition launched a military campaign in March 2015 in support of the government against the Iran-backed rebels.
Millions are in need of food aid, and another 21 million people urgently need health services, according to the United Nations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that rebels were ready to observe a ceasefire plan taking effect this week, but the government swiftly dismissed the proposal.
Kerry spoke a day after meeting Houthi negotiators in Oman, but Hadi's government said it was not aware of any new peace initiative.
Six attempts to clinch a ceasefire in Yemen have foundered, including a three-day October truce that fell apart as soon as it went into force. It was designed to allow aid deliveries to millions of homeless and hungry Yemenis.