SANAA: Two people died in artillery fire in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz on Sunday, medical workers said, as fierce fighting between loyalists and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh ground into its fourth day.
The deaths bring to at least 19 the toll from fighting in the city — a centre of ten months of protests demanding the end Saleh’s 33-year rule — that threatens a deal to ease him from power and end chaos that has swept Yemen during the protests.
That deal was crafted by Yemen’s richer Gulf Arab neighbors, who share US fears a political and security vacuum will embolden the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda, and see multiple internal conflicts turn into full-blown civil war.
Workers at a field hospital in the city some 200 km (120 miles) south of the capital Sanaa said a woman and child died from injuries suffered while trapped in a building hit by artillery fire in the midst of the fighting.
Residents said on Saturday government forces used artillery, tanks and rockets in residential areas of Taiz, trapping about 3,000 families during skirmishes with opposition fighters who responded with medium and light fire.
Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Basindwa, an opposition leader, has warned his side would rethink its commitments under the transition deal if the fighting in Taiz did not stop.
Opposition parties that are to form a government between them and members of Saleh’s ruling party demand the immediate formation of a military committee agreed last month as part of the deal in which Saleh signed powers over to his deputy.
Under the agreement, the military committee, headed by Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, would run the armed forces — key units of which are run by Saleh’s relatives — and oversee the end of fighting and the return of forces to barracks.
It would have equal numbers from Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).
A GPC official said on Saturday Saleh’s party was not happy about opposition nominees to the committee, and the state news agency later quoted Hadi’s office as saying any agreement on the military body depended on forming a government.