Dozens of people have been killed in heavy fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in Yemen's war-torn central city of Taiz. Sadeq al-Hassani, a spokesman for forces loyal to the country's exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, said on Thursday that 27 Houthis and 13 pro-government fighters were killed in clashes around Taiz, the AFP news agency reported. On Wednesday, pro-government officials had reported that five Houthis were killed when loyalists backed by Arab coalition air strikes fought off a rebel assault in Kahbub, a mountainous area overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait at the entrance to the Red Sea. Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the death tolls and the rebels rarely acknowledge their losses. More than 200,000 civilians have been caught up in the fighting in Taiz, a city between the rebel-held capital of Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden, which has become one of the major front lines in the battle for control of Yemen.
ADEN – At least 12 rebels and three pro-government fighters were killed in fierce battles in southwestern Yemen on Wednesday, military sources said. Loyalist forces attacked rebel positions in Kirsh area in Lahj province, killing seven insurgents, said Gen. Fadhl Hasan, who is leading pro-government troops in the area. "We will continue our advance towards Taiz (city) to break the siege" imposed for more than a year by the Houthi Shiite rebels on Yemen's third city, Hasan said. In Taiz province, five Houthis and their allies were killed when loyalists backed by coalition airstrikes and artillery fought off a rebel assault in Kahbub area, a loyalist military leader said. Three pro-government fighters were also killed in the fighting, Col. Abdulghani al-Subaihi said, in a mountainous area overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait at the entrance of the Red Sea.
Fierce fighting has been reported after pro-government forces in Yemen, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, launched an offensive on the rebel-held city of Hudaydah, a key port for aid supplies. The United Arab Emirates confirmed of its four soldiers had been killed and 22 Houthi rebels reportedly also died. Fighting raged mainly near the city's airport and the al-Durayhmi area south of the city, media reports say. The UN Security Council is to hold urgent talks on Yemen on Thursday. It is the first time the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Gulf states has tried to capture such a well-defended major city in Yemen.
Yemen's Houthi rebels have vowed to fight on after pro-government forces seized Hudaida airport from them on Wednesday, in a major step towards retaking the port city following a week-long battle. Rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi called for reinforcements to repel the advance of the Saudi and UAE-backed government forces, after ongoing fighting left nearly 350 people dead. "We will face all of the incursions on the ground. Our determination will never be dented," he said via the rebels' Al-Masirah news outlet. Saudi-Emirati coalition forces announced the capture of Hudaida airport on Wednesday morning, a day after breaking through the perimeter fence.
Sporadic clashes have broken out in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels, just hours before a United Nations-led team tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in the strategic port city is expected to meet. An AFP news agency correspondent reported hearing the sound of heavy artillery and the exchange of gunfire to the east of the city, underscoring the fragility of the truce that began on December 18. An official related to the Saudi-UAE coalition told AFP on the condition of anonymity that 10 pro-government soldiers had been killed since the ceasefire went into force and accused the Houthis of 183 violations. "The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, that the Houthis are clearly looking to provoke a response from the coalition and no one is holding them accountable," he told AFP. The rebels, in turn, said on the same day that they had recorded at least 31 violations in the past 24 hours by pro-government troops, according to the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.