Government loyalist forces, known as the Popular Resistance, captured Friday a key military camp, 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb strait, after fierce clashes with the Iran-backed Houthis and allied supporters of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Dozens of rebels were killed and injured during the fighting while the remaining fled in the direction of the desert, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Saif Al-Yafey, a district commander in Yemen’s military, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Government forces have retaken Al-Omari camp in Al-Dhubab district of the Taiz governorate and are awaiting orders to advance towards Mokha, the commander said.
Last week, supporters of the internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by Arab coalition airstrikes and ground troops, seized the strategic strait from the Houthi rebels.
Meanwhile, Saudi-led coalition warplanes continued airstrikes against Houthis and Saleh’s positions in Mokha and Taiz on Friday, in what could be a prelude to an imminent ground operation.
“Having liberated Bab El-Mandeb strait and then the coastal Dhubab district, Arab coalition forces and the popular resistance are now moving towards liberating the coastal city of Mokha,” a Yemeni military source told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The Arab coalition’s plan is to liberate the coastal line entirely from the Putschist militias,” the source, who requested to remain anonymous, said , referring to an alliance of Houthi militias and Saleh’s followers who seized the capital, Sana’a, and toppled Hadi in September of 2014.
Separately, the Houthi movement has sent to the foreign ministries of several countries letters in which they criticized the Saudi-led coalition and provided false information about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt.
The letters, which bore the symbol and official seal of the Yemeni Foreign Ministry, called for the need to allow aid into the country.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said his country’s diplomatic missions abroad contacted the ministry’s temporary headquarters in Riyadh to inform it about the letters. Yassin accused the Houthis of fraud, saying that all diplomatic memoranda issued by the foreign ministry in Sana’a after the Houthis took over the capital were illegal.
A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has been bombing the Houthis in Yemen for more than six months as part of a military campaign which aims to restore Hadi to power.
Wael Hazzam contributed additional reporting from Taiz