Smoke rises as a Yemeni military armoured personnel carrier was hit by a Houthi rocket near the Red Sea coast city of al-Mokha, Yemen on Tuesday. Image Credit: Reuters

Al Mukalla: Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition intensified air strikes on Al Houthi-held regions on the Red Sea between Taiz and Hodeida apparently to pave the way for the government forces, who are still battling remnants of Al Houthis snipers in Mocha, to advance.

Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Majili, Yemen army spokesperson, told Gulf News on Wednesday that the government’s sappers combed the liberated Mocha town in Taiz province, searching for thousands of landmines planted by Al Houthis as other forces skirmished with Al Houthis snipers who refused to give up.

“The coalition’s fighter jets launched massive air strikes on Hodeida, Khoukha and other regions to clear the way for the advancing forces to make headway,”

Yemen government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition early this month fought their way into strategic areas on the Red Sea including Al Ameri, Dhobab and Jadeed. On Monday, the internationally recognised government, currently based in the southern port city of Aden, declared the storming of the strategic Mocha town and taking control of its famous port.

Al Houthis refused to admit defeat and their official media post videos allegedly showing their fighters inside the town. “There are some pockets of resistance inside the densely populated town. The army troops are carefully trying to eject them from the city.” Majili said.

The Yemen government and the Saudi-led coalition have accused the rebel forces of using the town’s ancient seaport to smuggle in arms from Iran and other suppliers.

The government tightened the screw on arms smuggling last year after storming the strategic port city of Medi in northern Yemen, another alleged entry point for sneaking arms into the country.

In northern Yemen, the state-run Saba news agency said on Tuesday that Vice-President Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar visited the government forces battling the rebel forces inside their heartland Sa’ada province. Al Ahmar, a powerful army general who battled Al Houthis in their six wars with the government, was seen visiting battlegrounds in Al Bouqa and other areas in Sa’ada. Al Ahmar urged the soldiers and their allied tribesmen to keep pushing further until the entire province is liberated.

Yemeni government forces late last year made a major incursion from the Saudi side of the border into Sa’ada province for the first time since the beginning of the war against Al Houthis early 2015. The government forces, including also some Salafist Islamist, took control of two border crossings, a military camps and a large swathe of land inside Sa’ada.