AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army and allied forces have welcomed the Saudi-led coalition’s announcement of an extension of the truce in Yemen, and called upon the Iran-backed Houthis to stop hostilities on the ground to allow Yemeni health care workers to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesperson in the southern city of Taiz, said that troops have suspended raids on Houthi-controlled positions since the beginning of the truce.
“We welcome the truce by our brothers in the Saudi-led coalition and we announced that we are committed to putting it into effect,” Al-Baher told Arab News on Friday, adding that government forces are defending their positions against Houthi attacks.
“We only respond to provocations. The national army has halted military expansion on the battlefields in response to the truce,” he said.
Earlier this month when the first Saudi-led truce was announced, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi swiftly instructed his troops to halt military offensives.
Inspired by the halt of airstrikes, the Houthis — who have not agreed to the truce — mounted attacks on government forces in Al-Jawf, Marib, Al-Bayadh and other contested areas, Yemeni army commanders said.
In the northern province of Al-Jawf, Yemeni troops were forced to launch a counteroffensive to liberate a military base taken by the Houthis during the truce.
Inspecting a makeshift field hospital in Marib destroyed by Houthi shelling on Thursday, Yemeni army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Sagheer bin Aziz, strongly criticized the Houthi militia for escalating attacks on government and civilian targets over the last fortnight, and vowed to foil Houthi attempts to make territorial gains.
He also accused Iran of pushing the Houthis to disrupt peace plans.
“Iran is destroying Yemen through Houthi militia,” bin Aziz was reported as saying by local media.
Despite the UN’s calls for a truce in Yemen, hundreds of government forces and Houthis have been killed or wounded since the beginning of this month, local army commanders and media reports said.
This week has seen fighting between the Yemeni army and Houthis in mountainous locations in Abyan’s Mukayras, where the army reinforced positions with new soldiers and equipment.
On Friday, Yemeni news site Aden Al-Ghad quoted Brig. Saleh Al-SHajjeri — the commander of Al-Amajed brigade in the Mukayras — as saying that his forces advanced on the ground after heavy clashes with the Houthis, adding that six of his soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting.
In Marib’s Majzar, state media broadcast footage showing loyalists displaying weapons and ammunition seized from the fleeing Houthis.
On Thursday, a Houthi militia released Salah Al-Kaedi, a Yemeni journalist who has been in their custody since 2015, the journalist’s brother told Arab News.
Yemen’s minister of information, Mummar Al-Aryani, said that the released journalist and other detainees had been tortured.
“I call upon fellow journalists and media professionals to continue their noble efforts and pressure the (Houthi) militia to release the remaining detainees,” he wrote on Twitter.