AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army troops and the Giants Brigades on Tuesday seized control of new areas in the southern province of Shabwa after fierce fighting against the Houthis that left a loyalist military commander dead.
The Giants Brigades’ official media said that their forces, backed by air cover from the Arab coalition warplanes, stormed Al-Noqub town and surrounding areas west of Shabwa, including a mountain and a village, as they pushed to expel the Houthis from other districts in the province.
The latest military gains come as the Giants Brigades on Tuesday mourned Col. Sameh Jaradh Al-Subaihi, chief of staff of the group’s 2nd brigade, who was killed in fighting with the Houthis in Shabwa province.
A video posted on social media showed dozens of soldiers storming the outskirts of Al-Noqub town before advancing further in.
Local officials say that the military advances by the Yemeni military forces will pave the way for seizing back strategic cities and villages from the Houthis, further isolating the militia in areas south of Marib and subsequently liberating Marib city.
“The liberation of Al-Noqub will open doors for seizing control of large amounts of land in Bayhan,” a local government official told Arab News on Tuesday.
At the weekend, hundreds of Giants Brigades forces launched an offensive to seize back Ouselan, Al-Ain and Bayhan districts in the oil-rich province of Shabwa..
The fighters first attacked Ouselan from the government-controlled Markha district and managed to seize control of the district’s center after heavy fighting with the Houthis, who fled to their positions in the other two districts.
If government forces succeed in seizing control of the remaining areas in Shabwa, they would effectively cut important supply routes to the Houthis, who are attacking Marib from the south.
The Arab coalition said on Tuesday that its warplanes carried out 36 air raids in support of government troops on the ground, killing more than 182 Houthis and destroying 23 vehicles.
In neighboring Marib province, where government forces have battled aggressive Houthi assaults since early last year, local military officials told Arab News that attacks on the city were weaker this week after the rebel group moved some of its forces to reinforce Shabwa.
Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official in the Yemen Armed Forces Guidance Department, said that army troops and allied tribal fighters seized control of several locations in Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range, south of Marib, and are now pushing the Houthis from areas in Juba district.
“The national army has taken the offensive on the battlefield, shifting from attrition tactics and defense to offense,” Al-Mekhlafi said, stressing that the coalition warplanes struck Houthi military vehicles and gatherings in Marib province, paving the way for loyalists to strike back at the militia.
“Houthi firepower and manpower have been visibly weakened. They have lost more than 85 percent of their fighters and equipment since last year,” the Yemeni official said.
The Arab coalition also announced on Tuesday the killing of 55 Houthis and the destruction of seven military vehicles in nine air raids in the province of Marib.
The escalation in fighting came as Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said this week that his government was “forced intousing the military option” after exhausting diplomatic methods to convince the Houthis to comply with peace efforts.
“It is a crucial moment for all Yemenis, because it is difficult for them to continue in long wars with no horizon. All other options for peace have been exhausted,” the prime minister told Sky News Arabia on Sunday.