Major General Taher Ali Al Ouqaili with local military officials in Jawf before a landmine exploded. Image Credit: Courtesy: Yemen Army

Al Mukalla: Yemen army’s chief of staff narrowly escaped death when his car drove over a landmine planted by Al Houthis in the northern province of Jawf on Friday, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said.

Major General Taher Ali Al Ouqaili and local military and government officials were inspecting liberated areas in Khab and Al Sha’af, the largest district in Jawf, when an explosion ripped through their car, injuring Al Ouqaili. Other officials reportedly escaped unhurt in the explosion. The ministry said General Al Ouqaili suffered slight factures and bruises and was taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

Government forces, backed by massive air support from the Saudi-led coalition, made major territorial gains in the province of Jawf and thrust deeply into Al Houthis’ shrinking territories. Last week, government forces recaptured more than 90 per cent of Khab and Al Sha’af districts, pinning down militiamen in three small districts. Al Ouqaili, the governor of Jawf and senior army commanders were seen over the past two days visiting the battlefields of Khab and Al Sha’af, where they ordered army troops and allied tribesmen to press ahead with the offensive until they took full control of Jawf.

On Friday, the state-run Saba news agency said government forces purged Al Houthi militants from a mountain in Jawf’s Metoun district amid heavy air strikes by Saudi-led coalition fighter jets.

If military gains in Jawf continue at the same speed, government forces will be able to besiege Saada, Al Houthi’s main bastion, from south and east. Government forces are battling Al Houthis in Saada’s Bouqa and Baqoum regions in the east and north. Meanwhile, on the Red Sea front, the Defence Ministry said a ballistic missile fired by Al Houthis on Friday destroyed a school in Al Khokha in the western province of Hodeida. The missile would have caused heavy casualties if it had landed at the school during study days. After failing to recapture the strategic Red Sea region, Al Houthis randomly shelled Al Khokha with different kinds of rockets, claiming the lives of many civilians. The ministry also said that fighting raged for the third consecutive day outside Hodeida’s Hays town as government forces seek to make another major incursion into Al Houthi territories in the province. Fighting was also reported on Saturday in the central province of Bayda, where government forces and allied tribesmen killed and injured eight Al Houthi militants in Natea district.