SANAA: A fragile 48-hour ceasefire in Yemen ended on Monday after failing to stem violence across the country, with each side blaming the other for violating the US-backed truce.
The ceasefire, aimed at ending the chaos and bloodshed that has gripped the Arabian Peninsula country since March 2015, came into effect on Saturday following the intervention of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Despite a lull in air strikes on the rebel-held capital during the ceasefire, residents said Saudi-led coalition war planes hit a district in eastern Sanaa on Monday.
Both parties had traded accusations about hundreds of violations throughout the short-lived ceasefire.
The coalition said it ended at midday on Monday, and accused Iran-backed insurgents of repeatedly breaking it. “There is no respect [for the ceasefire], only violations,” said coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Assiri.
“There have been more people killed in [the south-western city of] Taez and more attacks with surface-to-surface missiles, so automatically the conditions are not there” for prolonging the ceasefire, he said. “At the military level, for the moment, we have no orders to extend the ceasefire. It’s over.”
The coalition had said the truce could be renewed if the rebels abided by it and allowed aid deliveries into besieged cities.
But violence flared as its expiration loomed.
Fifteen rebels and nine loyalist troops were killed in clashes overnight in and around Taez, military and medical sources said. Four civilians were also killed and 11 wounded in rebel bombing of loyalist-held neighbourhoods, the sources said.
Early on Monday, loyalist forces attacked Shia Huthi rebels and their allies on the western outskirts of Taez, military officials said. The offensive targeted an air defence base, they said, and witnesses reported loud explosions.
Four Huthis were killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition.
“Battles have resumed across various fronts,” a spokesman for pro-government forces, Brigadier Abdo Majli, said in remarks published on the loyalist sabanew.net.
Military operations will continue “until legitimacy is restored”, he said, adding that the coalition-backed army has “achieved new victories in Taez province and succeeded in liberating the air defence base north of the city”.
The ceasefire was the latest international attempt to end Yemen’s 20-month conflict, which the United Nations says has killed more than 7,000 people and wounded nearly 37,000.
Pro-Hadi forces said on Monday they repelled a rebel attack on their positions in Sarwah in Marib province, east of the capital.
The ceasefire had appeared shaky from the outset, and Assiri accused the rebels of 563 violations in Yemen and another 163 across the border in Saudi Arabia.
A spokesman for renegade Yemeni troops allied with the rebels accused pro-Hadi forces of more than 100 violations.
Local aid activists and witnesses also accused the insurgents of preventing an 18-truck relief convoy from reaching Taez on Sunday.
Unicef says nearly three million people in Yemen need immediate food supplies, while 1.5 million children are suffering from malnutrition, including 370,000 with severe malnutrition that weakens their immune system.
Separately on Monday, a US drone strike on a vehicle killed a suspected Al Qaeda Islamic judge in the central province of Baida, a security official said.
Washington regards Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch as its most dangerous, and has kept up a long-running drone war targeting its commanders.
Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group, which have exploited the conflict to gain ground in lawless parts of Yemen, are generally excluded from ceasefires and are attacked by both the coalition and US drones.