Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Sunday killed 10 Yemen army soldiers from a southern separatist faction in a “surprise attack” after more than a year of relative calm, military sources said.
Twelve others were wounded in the attack by the Houthis in the border area between the southern provinces of Lahj and Al-Bayda, the sources told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Four Houthi fighters were also killed and several were wounded, the sources said. There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
The attack targeted a site manned by the separatists, who aspire to create an independent state in southern Yemen such as the one that existed until 1990, the military sources said.
A flare-up of violence has rocked southern Yemen in recent months, with several fighters loyal to the secessionist Southern Transitional Council and soldiers killed in attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
AQAP is considered by the United States to be the jihadist group’s most dangerous offshoot.
Yemen has been gripped by conflict since the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.
The fighting calmed markedly after a UN-brokered ceasefire that came into effect in April 2022 and has largely held even after the agreement lapsed last October.
Sunday’s attack came as the UN special envoy in Yemen, Hans Grundberg, held talks with Ali Asghar Khaji, an adviser to Iran’s foreign minister.
“They discussed the progress of UN-led mediation & ways to strengthen concerted regional & international support to resume an inclusive political process under UN auspices,” Grundberg’s office said on X, formerly Twitter.
A China-brokered agreement earlier this year that has seen regional power brokers Iran and Saudi Arabia mend ties after a seven-year rupture also sparked hope for Yemen, but peace talks between the warring parties have stalled.
The southern separatist forces are backed by the United Arab Emirates, a key partner in the Saudi-led coalition and ally of the Yemen government in its fight against the Houthis.
According to the United Nations, the conflict in Yemen has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.
It has also precipitated one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with two-thirds of the population currently in need of humanitarian aid.
The World Food Programme last week warned that more than four million Yemenis will receive less food assistance as a result of funding shortages, compounding the crisis.
Many of the millions at risk are women and children already suffering from some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, it said.