Al Mukalla: At least 63 Al Houthi militants have been killed over the past couple of days in heavy clashes with government forces in Nehim district, just outside of rebel-held Sana’a, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said.

The Iran-backed Al Houthis mounted an offensive against government forces along the rugged mountains in Nehim, triggering fierce clashes amid heavy air strikes by Saudi-led coalition fighter jets. The ministry said government troops pushed Al Houthis back as the coalition’s fighter jets destroyed their military reinforcements that came from the capital, and hit their gatherings in Nehim.

Dozens of Al Houthis, including a field commander called Abu Hamid, were killed in the fighting. Local media reports have recently said Al Houthis made limited advances in Nehim after driving government forces from a number of mountain sides in Nehim. Yemen’s Defence Ministry said government forces have expelled the militiamen from those locations and pushed further into Masoura region in Nehim. Despite massive air support and military logistics from the Saudi-led coalition, government forces have gotten stuck in a military stalemate in Nehim and have made limited gains on the mountainous battlefield. The forces that reached the outskirts of Sana’a have largely failed to take control of Al Houthis’ remaining territory in Nehim.

Local commanders say the district’s topography and the number of landmines have slowed their progress.

Meanwhile, in the southern province of Shabwa, UAE-backed Yemeni forces strengthened their positions and checkpoints in Al Sayed and Al Mousina regions on Tuesday, a day after expelling Al Qaida militants from their rural enclaves. An intelligence officer in Shabwa told Gulf News on Tuesday that Shabwani Elite Forces raided many houses in the liberated areas, searching for Al Qaida leaders. “We raided the house of Abu Awad Al Awlaki in Al Mousina and deployed more forces at checkpoints. We have also set up three checkpoints at the entrances of Al Mousina,” the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

On Monday, Shabwani Elite Forces launched an offensive designed to expel Al Qaida militants from Shabwa’s rural enclaves that have long served as militant safe havens. Mohammad Al Qumishi, the commander of Shabwani Elite Forces, told Gulf News his forces managed to cross into some of the targeted areas including Al Mousina, forcing Al Qaida militants into fleeing to the provinces Baydha and Marib. The Shabwani Elite Forces were set up by the UAE military in Yemen in 2015 to replace crumbling security bodies in the province.