Military escalation hits southern Yemen as talks on peace deal suspended

Xinhua , Wednesday 26 Aug 2020

Military operations heavily intensified between government forces and military units of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in war-ravaged Yemen on Wednesday, causing an unknown number of deaths among the two warring rivals.

The fighting resumption came just one day after the STC representatives suspended their participation in the ongoing consultations to implement the Saudi-brokered peace agreement signed last year.

The STC's political representatives informed Saudi Arabia late on Tuesday about their suspension that occurred in protest against the mobilization of government forces in the country's southern province of Abyan.

According to a brief statement released by the STC, the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi "began mobilizing its forces to advance militarily in southern Yemen despite the ongoing talks in Saudi Arabia."

Local military officials confirmed to Xinhua that intense armed confrontations erupted between the two warring rivals in Abyan using heavy weapons including artillery shelling.

"An unknown number of deaths were recorded as a result of the ongoing battles that are continuing in escalation in Abyan province," one of the sources said anonymously.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Naqib, a spokesman of the STC's forces in Abyan, said in a statement released on his official Twitter account that "Abyan front is witnessing violent clashes..." and that their forces "fought back strongly against the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party forces."

The spokesman of the STC's forces indicated that their forces "are at the highest levels of combat vigilance and ready for all possibilities, including the comprehensive battle," which "will only be a decisive battle."

Yemen's government made no official comments about the escalation of the situation in Abyan or regarding the STC's decision of talks suspension.

Earlier this month, a number of military officials of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition arrived in Aden province as a team to closely watch the situation and prevent any attempts of military escalation in southern Yemen.

The Saudi officials began work to provide coalition an integrated plan to start implementing the military part of the Riyadh Agreement through conducting mutual troops withdrawals and disengagement to create an appropriate climate ahead of forming a new government.

But the recent escalation of fighting is threatening to collapse the mechanisms proposed by Saudi Arabia last month to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh power-sharing agreement signed between the two Yemeni warring rivals in November last year.

The new mechanisms include maintaining the cease-fire and de-escalation between the government and the STC, which came into effect on July 22.

Last year, Saudi Arabia persuaded the STC and the Yemeni government to hold reconciliation talks, which succeeded in reaching a deal to form a new technocrat cabinet of no more than 24 ministers.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked in a civil war since late 2014, when the Houthi rebels overran much of the country and seized all northern areas including the capital Sanaa. 

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