Yemeni soldiers stand on their position on a mountain on the frontline of fighting with Houthis in Nihem area near Sanaa, Yemen. Image Credit: REUTERS

Al Mukalla: The Iran-backed Al Houthis, who have sheltered in Hodeida’s Hays town in western Yemen, have destroyed a bridge outside the town and planted a large number of landmines to block advancing government forces.

Backed by massive air support from Saudi-led coalition fighter jets, government forces attacked Hays town after clearing its suburbs of landmines and IEDs. As government forces began heading towards the town on Sunday, Al Houthis blew a bridge linking Hays to its outskirts and surrounding areas and deployed forces inside the densely populated town to slow down government forces. Loyalists posted photos on social media, showing a long convoy of armoured vehicles marching towards Hays before Al Houthis detonated the bridges. Government forces paused their advance as the coalition’s fighter jets and helicopters hit Al Houthi defences in the town.

 Government forces paused their advance as the coalition’s fighter jets and helicopters hit Al Houthi defences in the town.

Last week, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said government forces reached the edges of Hays town in the province of Hodeida after liberating large swathes of land from Al Houthis.

The current operations in Hodeida province are part of a major military offensive that started early last year, aimed at securing the country’s vast and porous coastline on the Red Sea from Al Houthi attacks on the strategic Bab Al Mandab Strait and denying militiamen the opportunity to use coastal regional areas for smuggling in Iranian arms. For the first time since the beginning of the war in 2015, government forces are stationed 85km south of Hodeida city, the last major coastal city under Al Houthi control and the final objective of the offensive.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Taiz, another raging battlefield, Major General Khalid Fadhel, the commander of government troops in Taiz, said his forces have made gains on the western and eastern edges of Taiz. Fadhel told the official Saba news agency that government forces will press ahead with their current offensive until they take control of the city and put an to Al Houthis’ siege and shelling. Official media said on Sunday that as many as 50 Al Houthis had been killed over the last 48 hours in Taiz and government forces pushed to take control of two strategic roads linking Taiz with Hodeida and Ibb provinces, two major supply routes for Al Houthi militants.

In northern province of Saada, Al Houthis’ main bastion, Saba reported that government forces advanced into Bouqa region after taking control of a mountain and killing and injuring several Al Houthis. Last week, government forces announced the opening up of a new front in Saada after attacking Al Houthi militants in Razah district, south-eastern Saada.