Al Mukalla: Yemen government forces have pushed deeply into Al Houthi-held territories in Marib’s province’s Serwah, taking control of strategic mountains and the town’s airport, local army commanders and government officials said on Saturday.

With the help of heavy air support from the Saudi-led coalition, forces loyal to president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday afternoon stormed Serwah airport after heavy clashes with the rebel forces.

“The national army forces have effectively cut almost all supply lines from Sana’a to Al Houthi forces on Helan mountain and other locations,” a government official close to the governor of Marib told Gulf News on condition of anonymity.

The official said the government forces are engaging in heavy battles with the rebels in Serwah’s downtown and the surrounding mountains. “Controlling Serwah would set the stage for finishing Al Houthi pockets on the mountains and completely secure the city of Marib from Al Houthi shelling,” the official said.

Army commanders and military analysts who previously spoke to the Gulf News said that liberating all of Marib would enable government forces to open a new front outside Al Houthi-controlled Sana’a through Khawlan district. “Regarding the Sana’a operation, crossing into the province from Serwah would be less tough than Nehim since forces would not come across rugged areas,” the official said. “Serwah also hosts a number of army units loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

Government forces seized two tanks and a number of armed vehicles from the fleeing rebels.

Recent victories in the province of Marib come in the wake of a big offensive by the government forces and supported by military advisers from the coalition. But even if the government forces silenced Al Houthis’ Katyusha rockets and mortar shells, analysts said the rebels have tried to target Marib, the base for thousands of government and coalition forces, with ballistic missiles.

Local government officials and witnesses said last week that the coalition’s air defence, stationed in Marib, intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired from Al Houthi-controlled provinces in northern Yemen. Also in northern Yemen, rebel forces in the province of Jawf have suffered fresh defeats when the government forces captured locations in Al Ghayel district. Fighting has been raging in the province since Tuesday when the government forces backed by the coalition’s warplanes launched an offensive to expel the rebels from Al Ghayel. Local media reports say dozens of rebel forces were killed in the battles.