Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees hold a position during clashes with alleged Shiite Huthi rebel in the central city of Taiz, on March 11, 2016. Image Credit: AFP

Al Mukalla: Yemeni army troops and local resistance fighters in southern city of Taiz on Saturday officially declared breaking Al Houthis’ year-long siege that brought the city to the brink of famine.

In the last couple of days, government forces have quickly recaptured key sites on city’s western outskirts from the rebels following a sudden massive assault.

The forces seized control of the old airport, city’s university, a deserted prison and a checkpoint where rebels used to block supplies to the city. But the most significant victory was taking control of the main road that connects the city with the strategic port city of Aden.

Military officials say that as many as 52 Al Houthis fighters were killed and 20 were arrested on Friday. Twenty government forces were killed the same clashes.

“We have officially ended Al Houthis siege after engineers removed landmines and unexploded projectiles from Taiz- Aden road. We asked people today [Saturday] to bring food and other supplies to the city,” Colonel Mansour Al Hassani, a spokesperson for Supreme Council, an alliance of local resistance fighters and the national army, told Gulf News on Saturday.

Shortly after clearing the rebels from the western side of the city, government forces mounted another massive on eastern outskirts.

“We have achieved the first phase of the military operation which includes ending Al Houthis blockade. The second and final phases which started today would primarily focus on liberating the entire city,” Al Hassani said.

Al Houthi rebels and rebellious army units loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have laid a siege to the populous city in a bid to force local resistance fighters to lay down their arms. But instead of weakening their military opponents, the siege brought about a dire humanitarian crisis.

Al Hassani said that government forces turned the tide after hundreds of highly trained soldiers arrived in the battlefields from Al Anad military base in the southern province of Lahj.

“Al Houthis have been weakened by months of fighting and massive air strikes by the Arab coalition warplanes,”

Fed up with the siege, locals, said Al Hassani, sheltered and backed anti-Al Houthi fighters. “Soldiers’ morale was boosted when government paid their salaries for the last six months.”

Official media said senior government officials contacted field army and resistance commanders in the city to congratulate them for the big victory. President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, his deputy Khalid Bahah and Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, the second in command of Yemen army, congratulated their fighters and urged them to secure liberated districts in Taiz.