AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni government troops pushed deeper into the Houthi-controlled territory in the southern province of Shabwa on Saturday, a day after seizing control of the district of Ouselan, local military officials said.
Fighting broke out between government troops, comprised from the Giants Brigades and army personnel, and the Houthis in Al-Nagoum and Al-Salem between Ouselan and Bayan in Shabwa province, as loyalists push to expel the Houthis from Bayhan and Al-Ain, two remaining districts in Shabwa under Houthi control, an army official told Arab News on Sunday.
The governor of Shabwa, Awadh Mohammed Al-Wazer, announced the liberation of the district of Ouselan from the Houthis during the early hours of a new offensive aimed at expelling them from oil-rich Shabwa.
Army commanders and local officials appeared in videos, taking group photos and speaking to jubilant people outside the center of Ouselan.
Giants Brigades official media also reported that their forces liberated the strategic Bin Ageel Mountain in Ouselan and surrounding areas, and are currently marching towards new areas in Bayhan district.
Warplanes from the Arab coalition on Saturday and Sunday carried out raids in Shabwa, targeting Houthi military vehicles and locations, Yemeni officials said.
By seizing control of Ouselan, the government troops have effectively cut the Houthi supply routes to their fighters in Hareb district, south of Marib, distracting the attention of the Houthis and alleviating pressure on government troops defend the city.
“This is a very important development. We have one goal, one battle and one enemy,” a military official said, adding that the Houthis moved some of their forces in Marib province to defend their territory in Shabwa, relieving pressure on government forces and enabling them to score limited gains on Sunday.
“The Houthis are amassing huge forces to defend Bayhan and are inciting tribal leaders to mobilize and recruit people to fight government troops,” the official said.
If the Giants Brigades and army troops fully capture Bayhan and Al-Aid in the coming days, they would surround pockets of Houthis south of Marib, including in Juba, Al-Abedia and Hareb, significantly weakening Houthi attacks on Marib from the south, and would also pave the way for government troops to attack the Houthis in Abyan and Al-Bayda.
In September, the Houthis besieged the district of Al-Abedia and opened a new front in the war south of Marib, taking advantage of their control of Bayhan in Shabwa.
The deployment of several brigades from the Giants Brigades that have long been positioned along the country’s west coast, in Shabwa province, is part of a new military strategy prepared by the Arab coalition.
The strategy is based on moving forces from less fraught areas such as Hodeidah to reinforce government troops on more intense battlefields such as Marib and Shabwa.
The liberation of large amounts of land in Shabwa has sparked joy in Yemen and has given government troops on the battlefields a big morale boost.
Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called the governor of Shabwa to congratulate him on the latest military gains in the province and ordered him to press ahead with the offensive until the Houthis are driven out of the province, the official news agency SABA said.
Hadi added that his forces would defeat the Iran-backed militia and return peace and stability to war-torn Yemen.
In a telephone conversation with the governor of Shabwa, Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, who is currently visiting the UAE, also praised the Yemeni troops and Giants Brigades forces for scoring military gains in Shabwa, pledging support to the governor and other commanders leading the fight against the Houthis.
The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, also reacted to the news of the military success in Shabwa, by tweeting that the liberation of Ouselan is the “beginning of good.”