Reuters, Oct 12, 2016 - Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government clashed with Houthi fighters over a strategic town close to the border with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a sign a new front may be opening in the 19-month-old civil war.
Officials from the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi's government said that Yemeni troops captured the al-Buqa border crossing on Tuesday night.
If confirmed, it would be the first time that forces from the Saudi-backed government have established a foothold in Saada province, home of the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls much of northern Yemen.
"The town is secured but clashes are ongoing," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi told Reuters by telephone.
Fighting has intensified since U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait ended in August without an agreement. The fighting has been concentrated around the country's Houthi-controlled ancient capital, Sanaa, where little territory has changed hands.
The Saudi-led coalition has been providing air support for Hadi's forces in a civil war that has unleashed famine and killed more than 10,000 people since March 2015 in the Arab world's poorest country.
The outcry over civilian casualties has led some lawmakers in the United States and Britain as well as rights activists to push for curbs on arms sales to Riyadh, so far without success.
Violence has escalated in Yemen since an attack on mourners in Sanaa last Saturday killed more than 140 people and wounded at least 500 more.
Saudi Arabia's king on Wednesday offered to help evacuate Yemenis severely wounded in the attack.
King Salman instructed the Saudi-run King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to evacuate "those whose cases require treatment outside Yemen," said the Saudi press agency, SPA.
It was not immediately clear if the announcement meant that the Saudi-led coalition would lift a ban imposed on flights from Sanaa airport since the peace talks collapsed.