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Yemen: Clashes rage on as regional actors call for political solution

Houthis have taken over a loyalist military brigade in Taiz, Yemen's third largest city. But as regional actors call for a political solution, southern militias vow to step up their fight against the rebels.

Clashes between rebels and pro-government forces raged on in Aden and other towns on Wednesday despite Saudi Arabia announcing an end to its month-long airstrikes.

Yemen's Iran-allied Houthis called for a massive rally in Sanaa following the announcement. The rebel-held Al-Masirah TV network called on supporters to rally on the streets on Wednesday to denounce Saudi Arabia's "aggression."

Meanwhile, militia fighters in the south announced that they will continue their fight against the Houthis. "The end of (the Saudi-led) Operation Decisive Storm does not mean that the southern resistance will end its operations on the ground," a statement by the group said.

"The front will not stop its fight until all the south is purified from the Houthis and pro-Saleh forces."

The southern militia movement is comprised of former army officers, southern civilians, and members of the southern secessionist movement Herak opposed to the Shiite Houthis and supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Airstrike on Taiz

Houthi rebels took control of a military brigade headquarters in the central city of Taiz after heavy clashes on Wednesday morning. Loyal to current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the brigade resisted a week-long siege from Houthi rebels.

However, when the Saudi-led airstrikes ended last night, Houthi rebels overran it. Coalition airstrikes targeted the site shortly after Houthis gained control.

A new phase?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed Saudi Arabia's announcement on Tuesday, adding that political talks and humanitarian assistance were crucial to resolving the conflict.

"Positive developments in Yemen should be followed by urgent humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue and broad-based [government]. Ready to help," the Iranian foreign minister said in a message on his Twitter account.

Zarif's statement comes days after Iran proposed a four-point plan to the UN.

After ending a month-long aerial onslaught on Houthi targets in Yemen, Saudi Arabia announced a new phase in the conflict, which would combine political, diplomatic, and military action to bring peace to its war-torn neighbor.

While Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said that military action cannot be ruled out, "Operation Restoring Hope" will pursue a "political process that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen."

ls/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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