Yemeni soldiers take position during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels in the northwest Saada provinceAFP
Al Mukalla: Yemen’s Defence Ministry has announced killing as many as 100 Al Houthis in a week of raging fighting in the northern province of Saada, the rebels’ main bastion.
Fighting intensified inside Al Houthis’ heavily fortified province last month when government troops resumed attacks, taking advantage of the crumbling of Al Houthis’ alliance with assassinated former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Within a couple of weeks, government forces, backed by intensive air cover from the Saudi-led coalition, seized control of strategic mountains and a main market on Bouqa front, east of Saada city, the capital of Saada province.
In a statement on its official website, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said that at least 100 Al Houthis have been killed and dozens injured since January 12. Bodies of three out of four local military commanders killed in the fighting were found on the battlefield as the rebels failed to retrieve them.
Last week, local army commanders announced liberating 10km inside Bouqa region in the district of Ketaf as government forces seek to reach the district’s downtown in the coming days.
Despite the rapid gains in Saada, military commanders predict that they will encounter stiffer resistance from Al Houthis as they thrust into Saada city, the suspected hideouts of Al Houthi leader and their main arsenal of heavy arms and ammunition.
The ministry said that Saudi-led coalition fighter jets struck armoured vehicles carrying military supplies and fighters heading to Bouqa to reinforce Al Houthis on their most important battlefield.
Meanwhile, in the western province of Hodeida, several Al Houthi militants were killed when government forces attacked their positions on the outskirts on Hays town. The Defence Ministry said that loyalists combed farms and thick shrubs outside Hays for Al Houthi militants, landmines and arms.
Government fired at Al Houthi militants who were hiding in a small farm, killing several of them and capturing two, including the leader of the group. Local military officials have previously told Gulf News that they would first clean the outskirts of Hays town from Al Houthi militants and landmines before storming the town.
Breaking months of a military stalemate on the Red Sea front, government forces late last year scored a major advance by seizing control of major military and urban posts in the province of Hodeida.
The current offensive on Yemen’s western coast began last year and aimed at protecting the strategic Bab Al Mandab Strait and cut off Al Houthi’s smuggling routes.