Al Mukalla: Yemen government army troops backed by allied tribesmen have gained control of the district of Ghayel, Al Houthis major bastion in the northern province of Jawf after a swift morning assault, local army commanders and media reports said.
Supported by the Saudi-led coalition fighter jets, the army mounted a sudden morning attack on the last Al Houthi-held positions in the district, killing and capturing at least a dozen rebel fighters.
The state-run Saba news agency said Al Ghayel has a strategic spiritual importance to the rebel forces since many rebel leaders from Jawf hail from this district and it also hosts some military training camps, adding that the government forces seized armed vehicles from the fleeing rebels.
Unlike other fronts where Iran-backed Al Houthis put up stiff resistance, government forces in Jawf have made major territorial gains since December last year when they took control of Hazem city, the province’s capital and some neighbouring cities.
The liberation of Ghayel enables thousands of displaced people to return to their homes in the province.
By expelling Al Houthis and forces allied to Yemen’s ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the army effectively cut off arms supplies to the rebel forces and lay siege on Saada, their stronghold.
Officials also say that by liberating Jawf, government forces can cross into Sana’a from the north.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led Arab coalition launched at least ten air strikes on Sana’a targeting Al Houthis’ military sites, residents said on Saturday.
Most of the air strikes focused on the Faj Attan mountain that is said to host an underground ballistic missiles depot.
Other heavy air strikes were reported on Saturday in Bab Al Mandab, Shabwa and Hajja.
In the southern city of Taiz, local activists said that at least 18 rebel fighters were killed in the coalition’s heavy air raids and clashes with the government forces in many parts of the city.
Residents said that Al Houthis were trying to fight off a fresh assault by the government forces in the eastern, southern and northern suburbs of the city.
In March last year, Saudi Arabia and several allied Arab countries entered the Yemeni battlefield aiming to blunt the rapid Al Houthi military expansion across Yemen.
The air strikes have eroded Al Houthis’ manpower and enabled government forces to reverse rebel forces’ gains and liberate most of the southern provinces, including the strategic city of Aden.