Middle East

Yemen air force strikes Shiite rebels

People gather around a bus after it was attacked by gunmen in Yemen's southern port city of Aden June 15, 2014. REUTERS

SANAA: Yemeni warplanes hit Shiite rebel positions Tuesday in the north, where the army has come under repeated attacks after the collapse of a short-lived truce, local and military officials said.

The latest fighting with Houthi rebels, also known as Ansarullah, erupted Sunday, ending an 11-day truce reached through mediation backed by United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar.

The Tuesday raids targeted rebel positions in the villages of Salata, Sahab and Bani Maymun, located at the foot of the strategic Jabal al-Dhine mountain, an army official said.

Rebels and allied tribesmen have been trying to control the rocky mountain that overlooks the road linking Sanaa with the rebel stronghold of Amran.

Tribal and local sources said Houthis blocked the road Tuesday.

"The air raids are aimed at easing pressure on army positions at Jabal al-Dhine, where Houthis and their tribal allies carried out repeated attacks against troops over the past three days," the military official told AFP, without being able to provide a casualty toll.

Local and tribal sources told AFP dozens have been killed on both sides since Sunday.

Late Monday, suspected rebels sabotaged main power lines, leaving the provinces of Amran and neighboring Hajja in total darkness, tribal and local sources said.

Warplanes launched similar raids on rebel positions south of Amran city on June 3rd. The sides agreed the short-lived ceasefire the following day.

The Houthis are suspected of trying to broaden their sphere of influence as Yemen is reorganized into six regions, pushing out from their mountain strongholds in the far north to areas closer to Sanaa.

They complain that Yemen would be divided into rich and poor regions under a federalization plan agreed in February following national talks as part of a political transition.

Houthis have been battling the central government for years, complaining of marginalization under ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after a year-long uprising.

In February, they seized areas of the northern province of Amran in fighting with tribes that killed more than 150.





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