Heavy fighting in Amran

News and Press Release
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Madiha Al-Junaid

SANA'A, May 25 — Renewed fighting broke out Sunday between Houthi rebels and military forces in Amran governorate, bringing to an end a short-lived ceasefire brokered by a presidential committee at the beginning of the weekend.

The Al-Mekshash mountain area near the town of Al-Jannat, which lies about two to three kilometers from Amran city, has witnessed some of the heaviest fighting, according to Faisal Al-Shelaif, the general manager of Amran governorate's security office.

He said that on Sunday Houthi forces hit Al-Jannat with mortar fire from a range of about three kilometers, adding that a Saba Phone building and another building owned by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmar appeared to have been targeted. Saba Phone is owned by Hameed Al-Ahmar and both he and Abdullah Al-Ahmar are members of the Islah Party, which has particularly tense relations with the Houthis.

Waleed Saif, a reporter in Amran, told the Yemen Times on Sunday afternoon that "the conflict is still ongoing as artillery shells periodically rock the city".

Houthi forces are surrounding the city of Amran but have not yet entered it.

According to Yahya Tawwaf, the governorate's public relations manager, army reinforcements were sent from Sana'a.

"Mortar fire has been hitting the mountain overlooking Jannat city and Thaifan area in Amran," Tawwaf said.

According to the governorate's security management, the air force bombed a Houthi armored vehicle as well as howitzer and three other military vehicles, which the Houthis captured during previous clashes with the military.

Casualties are at this stage very difficult to determine and reports vary widely. Many of the wounded are taken directly to Sana’a, a short drive south of Amran.

Dr. Abdulghani Faris, the general manager of the Amran Hospital, said that medical services in Amran are struggling to cope with the high number of injured people. "Since the start of this conflict, we are seeing 40-50 cases of injuries and 5-10 deaths of citizens and soldiers each day," he said

He said that Houthi fighters do not bring their wounded to the hospital because their bases are far away and the city is not controlled by them.

Officials at the Amran Hospital said that people are fleeing the city to Sana'a or nearby villages because of the shelling which has hit civilian areas.

According to Al-Shalaif, most of the city’s inhabitants have fled.

Nawal Al-Suraihi, a local citizen who remains in Amran, said that areas like Thula and Al-Ma'akhath were devoid of civilians.

"The war is occurring on the surrounding mountains, and we [the citizens] are in the middle of all that," said Al-Suraihi, who added that she and her family have nowhere else to go.

Both sides have traded blame over the collapse of the ceasefire

According to Tawwaf, staff at the governorate’s public relations office were informed about the ceasefire via SMS, but they did not receive any details. He said that if the truce had been properly signed and implemented it could have prevented a recurrence of fighting and bought more time.

Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a member at the political office of the Houthis, acknowledged that the fighting is more severe than before and that residential areas are affected.

"In wars there are mistakes. Moreover, the shelling happens from far-away areas where they [the military forces] use their many weapons from hidden locations, and that provokes a response," said Al-Bukhaiti.

He refused to reveal the number of dead and injured Houthi rebels.

Al-Bukhaiti said that the conflict would end only with the resignation of Amran governor Mohammed Dammaj and the commander of the brigade that the Houthis are battling in the region, Hameed Al-Qushaibi.