Major General Abd Rabbu Qassem Al Shaddadi (C), commander of the 3rd Region of the Yemeni Army, tours with army officers and pro-government tribal fighters the Furdhat Nihem area after the army took it from Houthi militants near the capital Sanaa February 3, 2016. Image Credit: REUTERS

Al Mukalla: Yemeni government forces on Saturday announced new gains on battlefields in Sana’a province as Iran-backed Al Houthi militants retreat to fortify positions around the capital, military officials and tribal leaders said.

Colonel Arraf Mohsin Al Obaidi, a member of Sana’a Resistance Council, told Gulf News on Saturday that resistance fighters pushed Al Houthis out of all rugged mountains in Nehim district and the militants “lost tens of their fighters in the battles”.

“We are in control of all the mountainous area and military positions in Nehim including the headquarter of Brigade 312 and Al Goroud mountain,” he said.

Al Obaidi said that the Al Houthis fled after the brigade positions were overrun and resorted to planting landmines and deploying snipers in higher areas nearby to roll back the resistance advance.

“We are defusing landmines and chasing the snipers,” he added.

Government territorial gains in the province have accelerated in recent weeks, bringing them closer to the capital for the first time since the beginning of military operations in March.

Al Obaidi said that the next target of the government forces is Arhab, the district from which Mansour Al Hanaq, the leader of the Sana’a Resistance, hails.

“Clearing Arhab is a matter of time. I expect that the assault would stop at one point before reaching the capital. Liberating the capital requires big decisions and more troops,” he said.

In the capital, residents say coalition warplanes on Saturday increased strikes on Al Houthi-controlled military installations.

On the country’s western coastline, government forces recaptured the entire city of Midi on Friday after a massive assault on Al Houthis’ military positions.

A military source from the 5th Military Region that includes Hajja province told Al Masder Online, an independent news site, that government forces killed dozens of Al Houthi militants and captured seven others including three landmine experts.

The official said that the assault was aimed at clearing the Al Houthi presence in Midi and the neighbouring Abes.

Early last month, Al Houthis fled an important port facility in Midi following a seaside attack by government forces backed by marine forces from the coalition.

Military analysts say that the government’s key victory in Midi has choked the weapons supply routes of the Al Houthis.

Yemen’s government has long accused Iran of funnelling arms shipments to Al Houthis from Midi.