Al Mukalla: Yemen government forces and allied resistance fighters on Wednesday advanced deep into shrinking Al Houthi territory on the western coast and were battling the rebels 10 kilometres from the strategic Mocha town in Taiz province, army commanders and state-run media said.

Government forces have, since January 6, seized control of a large swathe of land in the west, including Al Ameri military camp, the Dhobab district and the Jadeed region on the Red Sea.

Major Mohsen Khasrouf, the chief of Yemen’s Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department, told Gulf News on Wednesday that the government forces had pushed Al Houthis further towards Mocha. “The government forces have stationed roughly 10km south of Mocha. We seek to liberate the entire western coast in Taiz and Hodeida provinces from Al Houthis,” Khasrouf said.

The rebel forces have turned to defensive tactics like planting a landmines in large numbers to slow the government forces’ advances, a sign that the once powerful militia has lost momentum in the war due to heavy air strikes and losses incurred in clashes with government forces, army commanders said.

If the government forces overrun Mocha in the coming days, the rebel forces would have lost a major entry point for bringing in arms from Iran and other suppliers.

In the north, Khasrouf said a commander of a Republican Guard brigade loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed and two others captured in heavy clashes with government forces in Sana’a’s Nehim district. “The government forces kicked them out from two strategic hills in Nehim and seized a huge stash of arms including Russian Kornet missiles. Some of the seized arms are not in the country’s arsenal. This shows the rebels have received arms shipments from the outside,” Khasrouf said.

Despite scoring a string of territorial gains in Nehim, government forces have had to overcome stiff resistance from rebels, rough terrain and the thousands of landmines the militia has planted to make their battlefield breakthroughs.

In Al Houthis’ heartland Saada province, explosives experts have defused more than 3,000 landmines from different locations that were liberated since earlier this month.

Brigadier Obaid Al Athela, the commander of Saada Axis, told Gulf News on Wednesday that the government forces are clearing landmines from the liberated areas before advancing further into other Al Houthi-held territories. “We are due to launch the second phase of the military operation, which will include taking control of new areas in Saada.”

Al Houthis have lost control of two border crossings with Saudi Arabia and the headquarters of an army brigade since late last year when the government forces marched into the province from the Saudi side of the border.