A UAE de-mining team at work in Yemen. Specialist UAE de-mining teams have cleared more than 20,000 mines and explosives planted by Al Houthi militiamen over the past eight months across different parts of the Red Sea coast. Image Credit: WAM

Al Mukalla: Yemeni government forces, backed by massive air and military logistics support from the Saudi-led coalition, have made a new, successful incursion into the northern province of Saada, Al Houthis’ main bastion, local media reports said.

Al Masdar Online, an independent news site, reported that loyalists seized control of several mountainous villages in Razah district, west of Saada, forcing the Iran-backed militia into fleeing to more rugged areas in province.

Quoting a local military source, Al Masdar Online said villages such as Al Mouthmera, Al Hanaka, Gelat Feras fell to government forces following fierce clashes with Al Houthis and loyalists are pushing into new areas in the same district.

Aimed at breaking Al Houthis’ heavy defences around their major bastion, government forces opened up a new front in Saada in January by rolling into Razah district for the first time since the beginning of the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen three years ago. Government forces initially pushed deeper into Saada in late 2016 when hundreds of Yemeni soldiers, backed coalition jets, entered Saada’s Bouqa region from the neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

By taking control of border crossings in Saada and a strategic road in the neighbouring Jawf province, government forces were able to dispatch troops and weapons to battlefields in Saada.

Meanwhile, in Nehim district, just outside Al Houthi-held Sana’a, government forces announced fresh territorial gains along the rugged mountains, killing at least two dozens Al Houthi militants.

Abdullah Al Shandaqi, a spokesperson for the 7th Military Region, said government forces killed as many as 26 Al Houthis in fierce clashes along a mountain chain in Nehim and liberated Rayaen and Al Admegha mountains, seizing heavy arms and ammunition. The coalition’s fighter jets struck Al Houthis’ military supplies coming from the capital to the battlefield.

Speaking to a group of international reporters along the Nehim mountains, the governor of Sana’a, Abdul Qawi Al Sharef, said government forces would press ahead with military operations until they expel Al Houthi militia from the capital and other areas, accusing the militiamen of recruiting children and looting humanitarian aid.

Local military commanders have announced taking hundreds of Al Houthis militants, including senior military officials, off the battlefield during heavy clashes with government forces or by the coalition’s fighter jets.

The Saudi-led heavy aerial bombardment on Al Houthi targets have turned the course of the war in favour of government forces and enabled them to seize control of almost 80 per cent of the country’s land.