Yemeni forces seize provincial capital from Houthis
Peace talks in Switzerland resume after interruption caused by capture of Hazm by troops loyal to President Hadi.
Yemeni forces and allied tribes have captured the capital of the northern Jawf province – the second rebel town to fall in 24 hours – as negotiators attempt to reach a peace agreement in Switzerland.
Troops loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and allied tribesmen seized Hazm on Friday after making significant gains in Marib, which lies south of Jawf, sources told the AFP news agency.
News of the government forces’ advance briefly stalled the peace talks under way in Switzerland as the rebels refused to continue unless the UN condemned what it called government breaches.
However, rebel representatives returned to the negotiating table later on Friday.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Friday, Yemen’s ambassador to the UN, Khaled al-Yamany, said it was necessary to maintain the ceasefire so that humanitarian workers could deliver aid to besieged cities.
Speaking from the Swiss city of Biel – where the peace talks are ongoing – Yamany said that while the major disagreements remain unresolved, showing up for negotiations was already “a real step forward”.
Yemeni troops had also captured the northwestern town of Harad on Thursday after crossing over from Saudi Arabia where they had been trained and equipped.
Around 1,000 soldiers were involved in that operation, a Yemeni military official said, before adding that “intensive fighting took place in Harad”.
Dozens of renegade troops allied with the Houthi rebels had been killed, according to the official.
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Yemen was plunged into war when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and marched south, prompting an Arab coalition intervention in March.
The fighting pits the Houthis and army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against the government, which is backed by the Arab coalition and supported by the US.
Security officials neutral in the conflict told the Associated Press news agency that fighters from both sides were refusing to respect the ceasefire.
Coalition officials said two ballistic missiles were launched on Friday from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia.
Clashes have been frequent along Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia, where rebel strikes have killed more than 80 people since the coalition campaign against the Houthis and their allies began in March.