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Yemen tribes set to attack key Houthi stronghold
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Yemeni fighters loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi stand in position during clashes with Houthi rebels in Ma'rib province on May 15, 2015. (AFP Photo/STR)

Yemeni fighters loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi stand in position during clashes with Houthi rebels in Ma’rib province on May 15, 2015. (AFP Photo/STR)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemeni tribal fighters loyal to legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi are preparing to launch a ground attack on the Houthi rebel heartland near the southern border of Saudi Arabia, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a tribal source said prominent figures from the Hashid tribe, which former president and Houthi ally Ali Abdullah Saleh hails from, are playing a significant role in preparations for the attack on the northern rebel stronghold of Sa’ada.

The tribal force will consist of a coalition of anti-Houthi fighters mainly based out of the western Al-Jawf province and the oil-producing Ma’rib governorate, the source said. Pro-Hadi paramilitary groups have so far been successful in pushing back the Houthi rebels in the strategically important central Ma’rib governorate.

Special military camps have been set up along the Yemen-Saudi border to accommodate the newly-formed tribal force, according to the source.

The ground offensive will be carried out in coordination with the Saudi-led coalition forces that are continuing to carry out airstrikes against Houthi positions in the country.

Another anti-Houthi coalition of Yemen’s tribes is being formed along the Arab state’s eastern border with Oman, a prominent Yemeni tribal figure said.

“An unprecedented coalition [has been forged] between the largest two tribes in Yemen, Hashid and Bakeel, in order to confront the Houthi and Iranian expansion in Yemen and the region,” the tribal leader told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The coalition shows that Yemen’s tribes have put aside their differences in order “to focus on the issue of restoring the state which has been looted by Houthi militias,” the tribal figure added.

Several of Yemen’s political factions, who recently held talks in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, are seeking to drag the Houthis into a war of attrition against tribes backed by coalition airstrikes, the source said.

The Riyadh conference on Yemen concluded on Tuesday with calls for the restructuring of the Yemeni army. Yemeni army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Makdishi has resumed his duties in Ma’rib province.

Meanwhile, Saudi airstrikes continued against Houthi-Saleh positions across Yemen on Friday.

According to eyewitnesses, several airstrikes hit Houthi positions in Dhamar governorate, 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Sana’a, on Thursday.

Several Houthi rebel leaders have relocated to the predominantly Shi’ite governorate, dubbed the “seat of Zaydiyya [Zaydi sect],” after their northern stronghold came under heavy attack from the Saudi-led coalition.

Meanwhile, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that efforts to implement a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Taiz have failed.

The south-western governorate is witnessing violent clashes between the pro-Hadi Popular Resistance Force and Houthi militants.