SANAA, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Fears of battles between the Yemeni army and al-Qaida militants in the country's southern city of Radda in al-Bayda province have forced at least 2,630 people to flee their home since last week, the official Saba news agency reported Saturday.
The internally displaced people (IDPs) have been accommodated in houses of their relatives in several villages and towns of the neighboring province of Dhamar, the agency said, adding that more displaced families are expected in the following days.
The number of IDPs increased after last Monday's suicide bomb attacks on the military sites that killed at least 14 soldiers and injured more 17, according to the state media. The terrorist attacks happened as the Yemeni army advanced into mountains surrounding hideouts of al-Qaida militants in the tribal villages of Gaifa on the outskirts of Radda.
The new IDPs from al-Bayda left their hometown a few months after about 100,000 people who had fled months-long conflicts between the army and al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan returned home, according to recent statistics by the UN office in Yemen's southern port city of Aden.
The Defense Ministry said the planned offensive "aims at driving the militants out of residential regions to reenforce the government control."
About seven military units, backed by fighter jets, fought against al-Qaida fighters for about 10 hours in al-Thalep Mountain on Monday night. The defense ministry said the al-Qaida suffered heavy blow during the battle, but gave no specific number of casualties.
The conflicts were followed by a fragile ceasefire mediated Tuesday by pro-government tribal chieftains to allow civilians to flee the areas of Radda, the second biggest city of al-Bayda province, about 268 km southeast of the capital Sanaa.
Officials said that military reinforcements were dispatched from Dhamar and al-Dhalee provinces on Friday and Saturday to Radda, and the army is gearing up for a large-scale ground operations against the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is considered the most active terrorist network in the Middle East since it was established in 2009.
Scores of al-Qaida recruits backed by tribal rebels from eastern and southern provinces of Marib, Shabwa and Lahj were seen arriving in the areas of Gaifa and Wald al-Rabyee district, according to security reports and eyewitness.
More than 30 militants in Gaifa and Radda have been killed since last year in joint Yemeni-U.S. airstrikes, following a U.S.- backed ground offensive commanded by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi that defeated al-Qaida wing in Abyan in May 2012.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, known locally as Ansar al- Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), took advantage of a political upheaval against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, in which it overran several towns of the southern restive regions.
Meanwhile, the defense ministry on Saturday said it has launched airstrikes and ground attacks on remaining al-Qaida bastions near the coastal town of Shakra and ragged mountains of Maraksha in Abyan province, killing at least eight insurgents and injuring dozens of others in the past two days.
It also said that military forces, backed by tribal militiamen, captured two al-Qaida fighters during the clashes.
Last week, a cargo ship laden with large arms and surface-to- air missiles was seized by the Yemeni Coastguard in Abyan.
"Initial investigations with the ship's crew members showed that the illegal military shipment was sent from Iran," the defense ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.
The Yemeni interim government has beefed up anti-terror operations since Hadi took office in February 2012.