Cairo: Yemen’s pro-government forces, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, on Sunday entered a major district in the north-western province of Hajjah, hours after starting an onslaught against Iran-aligned Al Houthis there, military sources said.
The operation in the district of Haradh began with coalition air strikes targeting positions and military hardware of militants, including armoured vehicles and launch pads, Dubai-based television Al Arabiya reported, citing a field source.
“The battle is raging, and ongoing clashes are supported by coalition jets and artillery,” the source added.
“Strategic positions of Al Houthi militias were destroyed, making it easy for the army and coalition troops to advance.”
The progress comes a day after pro-government forces recaptured a strategic mountain in Hajjah and cut off a supply route for Al Houthis between Haradh and the province of Sa’ada, the militants’ far northern stronghold near the Saudi border.
The Arab Coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, is supporting the Yemeni government in fighting Al Houthis, who staged a coup against the internationally-recognised administration of President Abd Rabbo Mnasour Hadi in late 2014 and overran swathes of its territory.
In recent weeks, government loyalists have carried out a multi-front campaign against Al Houthis in Yemen, including Sa’ada and the western city of Hodeida that has a crucial port.
The Hodeida offensive, the largest in Yemen’s three-year war, is expected to resume soon after a pause in support of hitherto-unsuccessful UN efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks between the warring sides.
In recent weeks, UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has intensified his efforts to avert an all-out battle in Hodeida.
Al Houthis seized Hodeida in October 2014, a month after they overran the capital Sana’a.
In 2015, the Arab Coalition initiated a military campaign in Yemen after Al Houthis advanced on the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.
On Friday, UAE Minister of State Anwar Gargash, called on Lebanon to rein in Hezbollah militants in Yemen.
The Iran-alied Lebanese militant group has provided logistical support for Al Houthis and has soldiers and advisors on the ground there.
“The policy of disengagement, to which we hope brotherly Lebanon will commit itself is undermined anew in addressing Yemen’s crisis,” Gargash, said in a tweet.
He urged Lebanon’s state authorities and its “rational voices” there to take action.
Last month, chief of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah declared in a televised address support for Iran-aligned Al Houthis, who staged in late 2014 a coup against the internationally recognised government in Yemen.
The Yemeni government condemned Hezbollah support, calling it a “blatant interference” in the country’s internal affairs.
The UAE is a main partner to a Saudi-led military alliance fighting Al Houthis.
Last month, the Arab Coalition unleashed a major offensive to expel Al Houthis from Yemen’s western city of Hodeida and its vital port.
The Yemeni government has accused Al Houthi militants of committing abuses against civilians in Hodeida.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani cited violations including planting mines inside the city, using civilians as human shields, subverting the water supply network and looting humanitarian aid.
“As the liberation of Hodeida and its harbour nears Al Houthi militias continue their violence and violations against inhabitants,” Al Yamani said, according to Dubai-based television Al Arabiya.
The Hodeida battle, the largest in Yemen’s three-year war, is expected to resume soon after a pause in support of hitherto-unsuccessful UN efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks between the warring sides.
Al Houthis have been in control of Hodeida since October 2014, a month after they overran the capital Sana’a.