Al Mukalla: Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition battled Iran-backed Al Houthi snipers in the heart of a small Red Sea area as part of a large military offensive aiming at liberating the port city of Hodeida, Yemen army spokesperson told Gulf News on Thursday.

Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Majili said government forces are trying to evict the remnants of Al Houthi fighters in Al Zahari region before advancing towards new areas in the province of Hodeida.

Other government forces engaged in fierce battles on the edges of Khalid Bin Walid military camp in Taiz province.

“Our forces are clearing Al Zahari from Al Houthis and then will march towards the Al Khokha region,” Majili said.

Forces loyal to Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi last month scored a major victory in its Golden Arrow Operation along the western coast after taking control of the strategic port town of Mokha, a major entry point for Al Houthi arms supplies from Iran.

Army commanders predict difficult battles ahead as their forces get closer to Hodeida, Al Houthi’s last major port city.

Majili said coalition fighter jets launched massive air strikes on Al Houthi military sites along areas between Al Zahari and Hodeida.

“The jets hit Al Houthi-held military camps in Al Khokha to smooth the way for ground forces to advance.”

If government forces liberate Al Khokha in the coming days, Al Houthis would have lost control of most of its ports where it receives weapons from Iran.

Outside Sana’a, Abdullah Al Shandaqi, a spokesperson for resistance fighters, told Gulf News on Thursday that government forces liberated two mountains in their offensive amid heavy aerial bombardment by coalition fighter jets.

“Dozens of Al Houthi fighters have been killed in the last couple of days as army forces liberated several locations in Nehim.”

On Wednesday, the governor of Sana’a, Abdul Qawi Sharif, said government forces are now 3km from Arhab district.

Sharif told the 26 September newspaper that his forces are making advances in the rugged and heavily mined mountains of Nehim and are close from storming Arhab district.

The same newspaper said on Thursday that as many as 11 Al Houthi fighters were killed in Marib’s Serwah when they tried to launch a sneak attack on a strategic mountain controlled by government forces.

A government supporter was also killed in the same clashes.

Meanwhile in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, Majili said a number of Al Houthi fighters including a leading figure, were killed in clashes with government forces on the western outskirts of the city.