Seiz­ing Taez would pave loy­al­ists’ way to cap­i­tal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNAT IONAL -

DUBAI: Months of fight­ing in Ye­men are com­ing to a head with an of­fen­sive by pro-gov­ern­ment forces to re­take the strate­gic prov­ince of Taez and pave the way to­wards the rebel-held cap­i­tal. This week, gov­ern­ment forces backed by a Saudi-led coali­tion, launched an all-out of­fen­sive to push the Iran­backed Shi­ite rebels out of the south­west­ern prov­ince, and to relieve loy­al­ists be­sieged in its cap­i­tal. The fight­ing, which has killed dozens on both sides, risks wors­en­ing an al­ready dire hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion for the 700,000 in­hab­i­tants of Taez city, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told AFP.

Stretch­ing to the strate­gic Bab el-Mandab strait at the mouth of the Red Sea, the prov­ince could be “the key for the lib­er­a­tion of other prov­inces, in­clud­ing Ibb and Baida” in cen­tral Ye­men and open­ing the way to the north, in­clud­ing Sanaa, said an­a­lyst Gen­eral Tha­bet Hus­sein Saleh. Re­gain­ing Taez would be of “strate­gic im­por­tance to se­cure the southern prov­inces” and Aden, the coun­try’s sec­ond city, said Saleh, deputy di­rec­tor of the Ye­men Na­tional Cen­tre for Strate­gic Stud­ies. The emer­gence of hard-to-con­trol armed groups, mostly claim­ing to be ji­hadists, is feed­ing a feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity, mainly in Aden. Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi, who fled Sanaa in March af­ter es­cap­ing from house ar­rest un­der the rebels, known as Houthis. He took refuge in the port city, which be­came the coun­try’s tem­po­rary cap­i­tal. Shortly there­after, he fled to asy­lum in Riyadh, cap­i­tal of neigh­bour­ing Saudi Ara­bia, af­ter the in­sur­gents seized Aden. But loy­al­ist forces and southern fight­ers, backed by coali­tion air and ground sup­port, pushed the rebels out of Aden and four other southern prov­inces in the sum­mer.

Loy­al­ists Face ‘Dif­fi­cul­ties’

Hadi re­turned to Aden this week to su­per­vise the op­er­a­tion in Taez, which Gen­eral Saleh said “faces dif­fi­cul­ties”. The rebels and their al­lies, forces loyal to ousted pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, “con­trol most of the prov­ince of Taez, while the (pro-Hadi) Pop­u­lar Re­sis­tance is weak,” Gen­eral Saleh said. The prov­ince is “large, with the Houthis and their al­lies controlling most of it,” while loy­al­ists are hold­ing most of the provin­cial cap­i­tal against a Houthi siege, he said.

The Pop­u­lar Re­sis­tance in Taez is “not as or­gan­ised as it is in the south” said Saleh, adding that the city is “still di­vided, with some sup­port­ing the Houthis and Saleh”. “We are ad­vanc­ing on three fronts to break the siege of Taez” city, said Gen­eral Fad­hel Abbes, com­man­der of the ma­jor Al-Anad air base. He spoke of a “col­lapse among the ranks of the Huthis, with some sur­ren­der­ing”. — AFP

DABAB, Ye­men: Armed Ye­meni tribes­men from the Pop­u­lar Re­sis­tance Com­mit­tees, sup­port­ing forces loyal to Ye­men’s Saudi-backed Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi, flash their guns in this dis­trict in Taez prov­ince on Tues­day. — AFP

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