Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, hold position during clashes with Al Houthis west of Taiz. Image Credit: AFP

Al Mukalla: Residents have returned to using donkeys and camels to transport vital medical and food supplies to the city of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, after Al Houthis recaptured a strategic road that connects the city with Aden, residents and government officials said on Thursday.

Almost a week after losing many sites in the western suburbs of the city to the government forces, Al Houthis and allied army units loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh recaptured the main road, a park and many other areas in the lat two days. Locals said the rebels build a concrete wall on the road to prevent reinforcements and local from crossing into the city.

“They reimposed the siege to the city after bringing Brigade 10 Republican Guard from [the city of] Hodeida,” a local government official told Gulf News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

The official said that the rebels amassed a huge number of fighters before launching their counterattack and were determined to recapture the road. “Resistance fighters were forced to withdraw due to the heavy shelling and gunfire,” the official said.

A year ago, Al Houthis who failed to capture the city’s downtown imposed a siege to the populous city to force pro-government fighters to surrender. On March 11, government forces backed by intensive air support from the Saudi-led coalition managed to break the siege after controlling Taiz-Aden road. “The humanitarian crisis is rearing its ugly head after Al Houthis capture of the western entrance of the city,” the official said. Local activists shared photos on social media showing people using dangerous slopes to smuggle food, and cooking gas cylinders into the city. Resistance had complained in the past that despite breaking the siege, no military reinforcements were sent from Aden-based government.

The official linked Al Houthis’ fresh attempts to reimpose the siege to the imminent peace talks in Kuwait next month. “They want to use the siege as a card to extract major concessions from the government.”

Despite losing a few sites in Taiz, government forces continue to make major headway in two main battlefields in the southern Shabwa and northern Jawf. Local army commanders in Shabwa said on Thursday their forces captured a small city called Al Ain and cleared surrounding mountain from militia, adding they are marching towards Bayhan, the last Al Houthi-controlled district in Shabwa. In Jawf, pro-government army generals also said they almost seized control of Al Matoun and Al Masloub districts.