By Arab News
By Saeed Al-Batati
Fighting raged on Sunday for the seventh consecutive day between government forces and separatists on the outskirts of the city of Zinjibar, the capital of the southern province of Abyan, residents and local military commanders said.
Government troops launched an offensive on May 11 aimed at expelling the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) from southern provinces including the port city of Aden.
“Fighting has been raging since early Sunday as our forces cut a road between Jaar and Zinjibar,” a local military commander, who wished to remain anonymous, told Arab News by telephone. He said that more than 20 soldiers on both sides had been killed and dozens injured since early last week.
On Saturday Yemeni government commanders admitted that separatist forces had captured Brig. Saif Al-Qufaish, the commander of Brigade 115 in Abyan, and a number of his associates after besieging their position in Abyan’s Sheikh Salem region.
“Our forces are in their positions and what happened on Saturday happens in every war,” Maj. Gen. Sanad Al-Rahwah, the commander of the government’s 1st Presidential Protection Brigade, told official media, commenting on the capture of Al-Qufaish. “If they captured a commander, we would respond by capturing or killing one or 10 of theirs.”
Over the last couple of days, residents in Zinjibar and Shouqra have reported hearing explosions from battlefields as government forces intensified the shelling of separatists on the outskirts of Zinjibar in an attempt to make headway. Government military commanders admit that separatists have resisted their offensive and that it could take longer to break through and reach Zinjibar and Aden.
There is mounting local and international pressure on the STC to back down and revoke its controversial self-rule declaration that triggered the violence. However, the council’s leaders are defiant and are demanding that government forces stop their offensive and surrender.
Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani said that the STC self-rule declaration in Aden had hampered the government’s efforts to pay public servants and fight the spread of coronavirus.
At least six Houthis were killed on Saturday in clashes with government troops in the southern city of Taiz.
Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesperson in Taiz, said that Houthis shelled the densely populated city with canons, tanks and heavy machine guns before attacking government troops on the western edges of the city. Two government troops were killed and three injured in the clashes that ended on Saturday afternoon when loyalists repelled the Houthi attack.
Local health authorities in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday reported four new coronavirus cases in the coastal areas of the province, including two deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in government-controlled areas to 126.
Health authorities also recorded three recoveries, bringing the total number of recovered cases to four.