Fighters loyal to Yemen’s exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi monitor a road during clashes with Al Houthis west of the city of Taiz on Wednesday. Image Credit: AFP

Al Mukalla: Forces loyal to Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have taken control of several key hilly sites in the southern city of Taiz after fierce clashes with Al Houthis and their allied forces, local military commanders said on Thursday.

Colonel Mansour Al Hassani, a spokesperson for Supreme Council, an alliance of local resistance fighters and the national army, told Gulf News that government forces have booted the militia out the mountainous positions of Al Aryal, Al Khawa and Al Araneb, and are close to pushing them out of Al Douhi checkpoint, where the militia are stifling the city by confiscating food and medical supplies bound for the city.

“These areas overlook Al Douhi crossing which makes us closer to breaking Al Houthis’ siege,” said Colonel Al Hassani.

Since early last year, Al Houthis and army units loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have imposed a siege on Yemen’s third largest city aimed at weakening their military opponents who control the city’s centre. The militia’s heavy and indiscriminate shelling have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and failed to force resistance fighters to capitulate.

Al Hassani said the focus of the heavy fighting is the western rural hinterland of the city where government forces are pushing to seize Taiz-Aden road. “Our main goal now is to break the siege and allow medical and food supplies to enter the city. Even if we controlled Al Douhi checkpoint, we have to secure Taiz-Aden road to get military supplies from Aden,”

Military officials in the city think months of relentless battles with government forces along with intense airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition have softened up Al Houthi militia. “Their military manpower has been eroded due to the fighting. We are stepping up attacks to exploit their shortage of fighters. Coalition warplanes have effectively helped weaken Al Houthis. Warplanes respond quickly to our calls any time.” Al Hassani said.

Residents say coalition warplanes on Wednesday and Thursday struck the city’s airport, checkpoints overrun by the militia and the HQ of brigade 22 in Al Janad district. Officials say the continuing battles have killed dozens of fighters on both sides.

Separately, in the south, vice president Khaled Bahah ordered his government to allocate 2 billion riyals (Dh43 million) for reconstruction of 6,000 partially-damaged houses in the city of Aden. The fund is the first phase of a large scheme to rebuild thousands of houses that were ruined during Al Houthis’ occupation of Aden last year. The internationally backed government has repeatedly come under fire from displaced people who fled their homes during the fighting.

Al Houthis have suffered a series of military defeats across Yemen shortly after Saudi Arabia and allied Arab countries launched a bombing campaign on their military sites in March last year.