A general view of the destruction in the town of Al-Nashabiyah in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region outside Syria's capital Damascus. Image Credit: AFP

Al Mukalla: Bodies of dozens of the Iran-backed Al Houthi militiamen have been abandoned in Nehim district, just outside of Al Houthi-held Sana’a, amid raging fighting between the militia and government forces. The district is the closest battlefield from Sana’a.

Yemen’s Ministry of Defence said Al Houthis had dispatched death squads to the Nehim battlefield to block government forces, and slow their advance towards Sana’a. Brigadier-General Abdullah Mazeb, a senior commander on Nehim front, said dozens of men from the death squads had been killed along the Nehim mountain range in clashes with government forces or by Saudi-led coalition fighter jets. He also said the militia left the bodies to rot. “The national army forces have killed dozens of Al Houthi militia operatives and seized weapons at different locations in Nehim, mainly Al Zelzal mountain,” Mazeb said in a brief interview with the ministry’s official news site, 26sepnews.net, adding that government forces had liberated the Al Zelzal mountain, and escalated attacks on Al Houthis along other hillsides that overlook Arhab district.

Local commanders on the government side said Al Houthis usually recover bodies of senior commanders, and leave behind those of minor operatives on the battlefields. Government forces are stationed 35km from Sana’a airport for the first time since the beginning of Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in March 2015. Loyalists have faced rough topography, huge numbers of landmines and stiff resistance from Al Houthis as they inch towards Sana’a.

Also in Sana’a, residents said on Sunday Saudi-led coalition fighter jets carried out at least 10 consecutive sorties, hitting Ayban and Attan mountains, north of Sana’a. The two mountains host major military camps where Al Houthis are said to be storing ballistic missiles and ammunition. The air strikes triggered large explosions that rocked Sana’a. Fighter jets also struck two military bases on the southern edges of the capital.

Meanwhile, in the central Baydha province, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said as many as 30 Al Houthi militants had been killed over the last couple of days in heavy clashes with government forces in the sliver of land in Natea district that the militia controls. Government forces assaulted Al Houthi militants on Al Qarha mountain to expel them from their last bastions in the district before heading to another district.

At least 13 Al Houthi militants were captured and a large stash of arms and ammunition was seized during the fighting. In December, government forces, backed by massive air support from the Saudi-led coalition, mounted an offensive in Baydha to push Al Houthis out of the province. Thanks to the coalition’s military operations in Yemen, government forces have gained the upper hand on the battlefield, and have seized almost 80 per cent of the country’s land.