AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Yemen’s army on Wednesday made “great gains” in a major new offensive to break the Iran-backed Houthi siege of Taiz.
Troops liberated several strategic locations and villages southeast of the city after launching a fresh drive against the rebel group, army spokesman Abdul Basit Al-Baher told Arab News.
He said soldiers opened a new front in Taiz to distract Houthi fighters while pressing ahead with another offensive in areas west of the city, in southwestern Yemen. “This is a new offensive that has taken the Houthis by surprise and enabled the national army to make great gains,” he added.
In retaliation to Yemeni army successes in Taiz, the Houthis launched ground and missile strikes on recently liberated areas in Jabal Habashy and Taiz’s western countryside.
Since Tuesday, at least 18 Houthis had been killed, including two provincial military leaders, as troops pushed back attacks, said Al-Baher, adding that a Katyusha rocket fired by the Houthis ripped through a residential area in Jabal Habashy district, west of Taiz, killing a civilian and wounding two more, including a child.
Under the orders of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the army recently ended months of military stalemate in Taiz, the country’s third-largest city, after launching a new push to end the Houthi siege there, weaken the group, and take control of new areas.
During the early days of the offensive, the army announced it had partially broken the siege after taking control of a key mountain road that links the city with western areas in Taiz province. Hadi told local military commanders to press on with the offensive until the province had been fully liberated.
The focus of the current fighting in Taiz is a mountain chain that overlooks another strategic road linking Taiz with Hodeidah via the town of Al-Bareh.
On Wednesday, Taiz Gov. Nabil Shamsan met with local dignitaries assigned to mobilize fighters and raise funds for the current offensive in Taiz, and he hailed the “great” support for the army from inside and outside of the province.
The governor urged the people of Taiz to actively take part in mobilization efforts and seize the chance to get rid of the Houthis and end the siege.
Meanwhile, fighting between the Houthis and government troops on Wednesday raged in different areas in the central province of Marib amid reports of heavy casualties on both sides.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry and local media reports said that dozens of rebel fighters were killed during clashes in Al-Kasara and Helan, west of Marib city, as warplanes from the Arab coalition hit Houthi military reinforcements and locations. Local media showed videos of thick smoke billowing from targeted Houthi military vehicles.
Speaking to state TV from Al-Kasara battlefield, Defense Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdashi thanked the coalition for its military support and air cover to government forces and vowed to confront the “Persian project” in Yemen and its tools in the country. “The victory is near,” he said.
In Marib city, two civilians were killed and at least 12 others wounded on Tuesday when a missile fired by the Houthis landed in a market. A video posted on social media showed drivers in a queue outside a fuel station fleeing their cars in panic shortly after the explosion.