Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen: Government loyalists advance in Ma’rib as coalition jets pound Sana’a
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A Saudi-led coalition military vehicle drives through rocky terrain during an offensive against Houthi positions in the Ma'rib province, Yemen, on September 15, 2015. (EPA/STRINGER)

A Saudi-led coalition military vehicle drives through rocky terrain during an offensive against Houthi positions in the Ma’rib province, Yemen, on September 15, 2015. (EPA/STRINGER)

Aden, Asharq Al-Awsat—Loyalists to Yemen’s exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi made strategic gains in the eastern Ma’rib province on Friday after fierce battles with the Houthi rebels, military sources said.

At least 25 rebels were killed and dozens injured in the violent clashes that erupted in Nakhla area in the oil-rich province between Pro-Hadi fighters, known as the Popular Resistance, and Yemeni army units on the one hand, and Houthi insurgents and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the other.

“Fighting continued for more than three hours and different types of heavy weapons were used in addition to aerial bombardment, light weapons and hand grenades,” according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Four military vehicles belonging to the Houthis were destroyed by the Popular Resistance forces who lost eight fighters.

Ma’rib has been at the center of recent efforts by government loyalists and local tribes, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, to cleanse the strategic province of the Iran-allied rebels.

This comes after Houthi claims that several local tribes in Ma’rib have declared their backing for the Iran-allied rebels against the internationally recognized government which analysts have dismissed as “lies”.

Houthis have cut mobile phone networks in several parts of Ma’rib since the military operation to retake the oil-rich province started, according to activists.

Separately, Shabwa governor Brig. Gen. Abdullah Al-Nassi warned that the presence of Houhi militias in parts of the central governorate “represents a major threat” to pro-Hadi forces currently present in the neighboring Ma’rib province.

After pulling out from Ataq, Shabwa’s provincial capital, Houthis have gathered in Ain, Bayhan and Usaylan, three Shabwa districts that border Ma’rib, the governor said.

Nassi called on Hadi’s government to cleanse Shabwa of the Houthis, a step he said “a single military brigade” can achieve.

Meanwhile, aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition intensified air raids on Sana’a on Friday, hitting a Republican Guard base and a military depot belonging to the Houthis in south and west of the capital, respectively.

Coalition air force jets also targeted two bridges on roads leading to Sana’a in an attempt to isolate the capital from other Houthi-held areas.

Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen in late March in a bid to restore President Hadi to power.