Two senior officers from the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government have been killed near the city of Taiz, Saudi and Emirati authorities say.
Saudi Colonel Abdullah al-Sahyan and Emirati officer Sultan al-Ketbi were killed at dawn on Monday “while they were carrying out their duties in supervising operations to liberate Taiz” province in Yemen’s southwest, the official Saudi Press Agency news agency said.
The Emirati state news agency WAM separately confirmed Ketbi’s death.
The deaths come ahead of a ceasefire agreed to coincide with UN-backed peace talks to resolve Yemen’s war.
Media controlled by the Houthi rebels said the two had been killed in a rocket attack on the Red Sea coast.
Taiz province, where the warring sides have been locked in conflict for months, overlooks the Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Medal of courage
Sahyan on Saturday met Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who awarded him with a medal of courage, according to Yemen’s official sabanews.net website.
He was identified as commander of the Saudi forces in the provisional capital Aden, where Hadi’s government is based.
Saudi-led forces, backing Hadi, launched an offensive in Yemen in March to push back the Houthis.
The fighters, backed by forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have seized large parts of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.
The Houthis and Saleh’s former political party, the General People’s Congress, are sending representatives to Switzerland on Tuesday for talks with Yemen’s internationally recognised government under Hadi.
A seven-day renewable ceasefire is scheduled to come into effect on Monday to coincide with the talks. Two previous attempts at ceasefires, in May and July, were followed by accusations of breaches by both sides.
The United Nations says more than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen, about half of them civilians, since March.
It has also pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
In early September, a rebel missile strike on a coalition base in Yemen’s eastern Marib province killed 67 coalition soldiers, most of them Emiratis.
So far at least 80 people, mostly soldiers and border guards, have been killed in Saudi Arabia because of the Yemen conflict.
The UAE says it has lost almost 70 soldiers so far.
Several Bahraini troops and one Qatari soldier have been killed as part of the coalition operations.