Yemen fighting persists outside rebel-held capital

Friday 18/12/2015
Heavy losses for Huthis

ADEN (Yemen) - Yemeni loyalists killed at least 20 Iran-backed rebels Saturday in a pushback against insurgents seeking to retake positions to the northeast of the capital they control, military sources said.

"The Huthis (rebels) on Friday launched an offensive in the direction of Jabal al-Salb in Nihm" district of Sanaa province, "but were repelled on Saturday morning", a loyalist commander said.

"At least 20 Huthis were killed" since Friday night, another military source said.

He added that loyalists also died, but he did not give a death toll.

Last week, pro-government forces captured the Jabal al-Salb area 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside Sanaa.

Loyalists and the Saudi-led military coalition supporting them have sent troops, armoured vehicles and tanks to reinforce the district.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets led dawn raids on rebel positions in Majzar area in neighbouring Jawf province to the north, which is mostly under loyalist control, a spokesman for the pro-government Popular Resistance militia said.

Loyalist forces advanced in Ghayl area in the same province, around 20 kilometres northeast of Majzar, Mohamed al-Behaih added.

Air strikes also targeted rebel positions in Baqim and Kitaf areas in Saada province, the Huthis' stronghold in northern Yemen, loyalist military sources said.

The rebels confirmed these strikes in a brief statement.

Fighting persists in Yemen exactly nine months since the coalition entered the war to support President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, despite his government announcing the extension of a repeatedly violated ceasefire earlier this week.

The rebels seized Sanaa last year and then advanced south to second city Aden, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Following territorial gains by loyalists, Hadi returned to Aden in November after six months in exile.

The conflict has escalated dramatically since March 26, with nearly 6,000 people killed according to UN figures.