Al Mukalla: Yemen’s internationally-recognised president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Wednesday dismissed three leaders of liberated provinces who recently joined a separatist council as his forces made new territorial gains in the province of Marib. Hadi issued a presidential decree, firing the governors of Hadramout, Shabwa and the remote island of Socotra, a move that could worsen his government’s strained relationship with south Yemen separatists who played a pivotal role in driving Al Houthis out of southern Yemen in late 2015.

Major General Ahmad Saeed Bin Bourek, the governor of Hadramout since UAE-backed forces regained control of the province’s capital in April 2016, was replaced with Major General Faraj Salmeen Al Bahsani, the commander of Mukalla-based 2nd Military Region. The other two governors were replaced with less known officials.

In May, shortly after Hadi fired a cabinet minister and the governor of Aden, thousands of southerners went to the streets of Aden and other liberated areas to protest against the sacking.

On May 11, the former governor of Aden, Aidarous Al Zubidi, announced forming a political council in south Yemen, bringing together fragmented separatist groups that took part in military operations against Al Houthi fighters. Governors of Hadramout, Socotra and Shabwa are members of the council. The three governors were not available to comment of the dismissal, but the former governor of Shabwa, Ahmad Lamlas, said on his Facebook page that he feels more attached to the separatist council.

Meanwhile, Yemeni troops and allied tribesmen secured their positions on a key Marthad mountain that overlooks the centre of Serwah district, after killing dozens of rebels in the continuing offensive.

A local journalist embedded with the army said on Thursday that government forces liberated almost 10km in Serwah district, forcing the rebel forces into fleeing to their shrinking territories in the district.

Military commanders say that if government forces took complete control of Marthad mountain, Al Houthi fighters would lose a lifeline mountainous supply route that provides them with arms and fighters from the neighbouring Sana’a province.

Backed by Saudi-led coalition air power, government forces have recently escalated attacks against Al Houthis in their last bastion in the central province of Marib, seeking to open a new front in the province of Sana’a.

In the southern city of Taiz, local activists who document Al Houthi crimes, said on Thursday that several civilians had been killed and many other injured since earlier this week in heavy shelling by Al Houthi fighters on densely populated areas in the city. The loyalists have recently gained control of the city’s presidential palace and a number of military posts in the eastern part of the city.