The National - News

Houthis suffer major losses as joint forces advance in west Yemen

- ALI MAHMOOD

The joint forces battling the Iran-backed Houthis in western Yemen have taken full control of strategica­lly important areas between the provinces of Hodeidah and Taez.

A large operation that began last Friday led to big losses in the rebel ranks, said Aseel Assakladi, spokesman for the pro-government Al Amalika forces.

“The joint forces seized control over new strategic areas in southern Hodeidah and Taez amid big collapses in the ranks of the Houthi militants,” Mr Assakladi told The National.

He said internatio­nal coalition planes had helped troops take full control over the strategic mountain of Al Maghreb in Jabal Ras in south-eastern Hodeidah.

They also controlled the mountains of Al Rewiana and Attour in Macbana in western Taez province, and Wadi Nakhlah in southern Hodeidah.

Mr Assakladi said the progress was made after “fierce clashes with Houthi militants, who suffered big losses in the ranks of their fighters and equipment as well”.

He said 45 Houthi fighters were killed and more than 25 were captured during fighting that began last Friday.

Al Amalika troops seized the Sakam intersecti­on in southern Hays, cutting the Houthi supply route that feeds their fighters in Taez.

Advancing deep towards Taez province, the joint forces declared Hays as a liberated and fully secured area.

Taez, the third largest city in Yemen, has been under Houthi control since 2015.

“Hays district was fully liberated and secured. Our demining team has removed all the mines and projectile­s planted in the residentia­l neighbourh­oods and along the roads,” a military officer in the joint forces said.

Hundreds of families who fled Hays to camps for displaced people in southern Hodeidah, Aden and Lahj provinces are preparing to return home after their districts were liberated by the forces.

“We are eager to go back home. We are just waiting

for the local authoritie­s to reopen the healthcare centres and the schools,” said Rafiq Saleh in Hodeidah.

“We are really grateful to the heroes of the joint forces and the coalition air force who sacrificed to end our suffering.”

The offensive is expected to continue in a drive to expel the Houthi rebels from all of Hodeidah.

Troops will keep advancing towards areas affiliated with the provinces of Taez and Ibb, Mr Assakladi said.

Pressure on the Iranbacked militias has grown in recent months, despite a major offensive launched by the group in February, which gained ground in the oilrich province of Marib, the internatio­nally recognised government’s last northern stronghold.

Air strikes in support of pro-government forces in the open terrain around Marib have caused the group extremely high casualties, with statements by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that supports the government often listing entire convoys of Houthi fighters hit from the air.

Heavy losses were confirmed by the Houthis on November 18, when an official from the militia’s defence ministry told AFP losses from the group were almost 15,000.

Air support operations for pro-government forces have been helped by the terrain around Marib, which provides little cover from aerial observatio­n.

The Royal Saudi Air Force operates a fleet of more than 1,000 aircraft, enabling military planners to cover a wide area with strikes.

Thirteen targets were struck during a military operation against the Houthis, the coalition said on Saturday. They included weapons depots, air defence systems and drone communicat­ion systems in Sanaa, Saada, and Marib provinces.

The war in Yemen has entered its seventh year despite several attempts at a negotiated settlement.

Vital ports such as Hodeidah remain under Houthi control, a situation which has pushed the country deeper into crisis.

The UN estimates about 2.3 million children are suffering from malnutriti­on, while as much as half of the population lacks access to clean drinking water.

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