Major-General Ali Hamed Al Gushibi, inspecting the frontlines as Yemen government forces yesterday launched a major offensive to wrest the strategic Haradh city from Al Houthis. Image Credit: Facebook

Al Mukalla: Yemen government forces launched on Thursday a major military offensive to wrest the strategic Haradh city from Al Houthis in the northern province of Hajja near the border with Saudi Arabia.

The official page of the 5th Military Region on Facebook announced the offensive against the Iran-backed rebels and posted photos of the region’s commander, Major-General Ali Hamed Al Gushibi, inspecting the front-lines and soldiers firing heavy machines at Al Houthis positions.

The page reported that the troops launched the offensive from the Saudi side of the border and managed to recapture an old border crossing with the kingdom and stationed 2km from the city’s downtown.

Officials say capturing the entire city would calm part of the Saudi border as the rebels use Haradh as a launching point for shelling Saudi territories. Observers link the surge in Al Houthis military operations across the country to the current peace talks in Kuwait as the rebels seek to make more territorial gains to pressure the internationally recognised government to make major concessions.

Earlier this year, government forces cut a lifeline arms supply route for the rebels after recapturing the port of the city of Midi following fierce clashes with the rebel forces.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government has long accused the rebels of receiving their arms supplies from Iran through Midi seaport.

Meanwhile in the south, a local government official in the province of Lahj told Gulf News on Thursday that six Al Qaida operatives including a leading figure called Abdul Rahman Al Hajoum were arrested in the province’s capital of Huta after a successful raid on their bolt-holes.

Government forces have managed to restore peace and security to the once lawless province. Al Qaida exploited the fighting between government forces and Al Houthis to expand in the province.

Marching in from the neighbouring Aden city, hundreds of government troops pushed Al Qaida out of the province in April.

The governor of Lahj and other senior officials are now based in the province’s capital.

Also in Lahj province, local media reports said on Thursday that three Al Houthis fighters were killed when they tried to infiltrate into the government-controlled territories in the region of Karash. Jawas Al Salafi, a field commander in Karash front-line, told Aden Al Ghad news site that the rebel fighters tried to sneak into government-controlled areas.

In Aden, Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Wednesday ordered the city’s governor and chief security to step up security measures and keep forces on a heightened alert to thwart possible attacks by Al Qaida and Daesh-linked affiliates. Hadi’s order came hours after a blast claimed the lives of two soldiers in Aden.

A suspected Al Qaida operative standing near an army checkpoint in Mansoura district threw a bomb hidden inside a plastic bag.

“The bomb went off when soldiers gathered at the checkpoint after having lunch,” an official told Gulf News on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

Aden’s chief of security Major-General Shalal Ali Shaye visited the injured soldiers in a hospital and vowed to hunt down the perpetrators.

Last week, a suicide bombing claimed by Al Qaida hit the convoy of Aden governor Aidarus Al Zubaidi, wounding three people travelling with him.

The militants also claimed two suicide bombings on Monday that killed 11 people in two of their former strongholds in the southeast.

Earlier this year, the Saudi-led coalition launched a major offensive against Al Qaida, helping to recapture the Hadramout provincial capital of Al Mukalla in April after a year of Al Qaida rule.

Coalition forces had previously focused their guns on Iran-backed Al Houthi militants and their allies who control the capital Sana’a and much of the north and centre, creating a power vacuum that Al Qaida and Daesh have exploited.

A year after Arab coalition forces drove Al Houthis out of the strategic city, government forces are in full control of the city despite these sporadic attacks by Daesh and Al Qaida.

Armed militants groups had been widely seen roaming around the city after liberation until government forces, mainly trained by the UAE military officers in Aden, took charge

of security and began raiding militants’ hideouts.

The security campaigns have resulted in a significant drop in daily drive-by shootings that target security personnel.