Al Mukalla: Yemen government forces backed by heavy air cover from the Saudi-led coalition on Monday took control of the strategic port town of Mocha on the Red Sea after heavy clashes with Al Houthis, two army generals told Gulf News.

Major Mohsen Khasrouf, the chief of Yemen’s Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department, confirmed via telephone interview that government forces stormed the town of Mocha and its strategic seaport from different directions on Monday afternoon and were later combing residential areas looking for hiding militants.

“This is a major milestone in our fighting towards restoring the state from the putschists,” he said. Brigadier General Abdo Majili, Yemen army spokesperson, also confirmed the news.

The current military operation along the western coast kicked off on January 6 when hundreds of army troops and allied resistance fighters marched from the port city of Aden towards strategic coastal regions on the Red Sea.

Al Houthi rebels were unable to stem the advance despite having planted thousands of landmines as they retreated.

The state-run Saba news agency said the deputy of chief staff of Yemen army Major General Ahmad Sayef Al Yafae rang internationally-recognised president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to inform him about the liberation of Mocha.

Commenting about the military significance of the army’s victories on the Red Sea, Khasrouf, who is also a veteran military expert, said rebel forces have lost control of the area where they received weapons shipments from Iran.

“They use some of these weapons in their battles in the city of Taiz. Now, the army can use the same seaport to funnel arms the resistance fighters in the Al Houthi-besieged city,” Khasrouf said.

Yemen forces backed by Saudi-led coalition forces began their offensive, labelled Operation Golden Arrow, two weeks ago, with the aim of liberating the entire Taiz province.

The next phase of the operation focuses on two parallel tracks which would see them march on the city of Hodeida as well as the besieged city of Taiz.

Recent territorial gains by Yemeni forces are primarily due to significant support from the Saudi-led coalition which has supplied them modern weapons as well as advised them on battlefield tactics.