Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi-led coalition targeting the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen has fulfilled most of its military objectives, with coalition airstrikes along with ground resistance by Yemeni volunteer groups succeeding in forcing out the Houthi militias from most parts of Aden, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday.
Briefing reporters at the Riyadh Airbase, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said a combination of coalition airstrikes targeting Houthi supplies heading to Aden and planned ambushes by Yemeni tribal and volunteer forces on the movement’s militias in the southern port city had successfully forced many of them to retreat or surrender.
The coordination of airstrikes and assistance on the ground from the Yemeni tribes and volunteer groups loyal to the country’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, as well as the sea blockade implemented by coalition warships, has essentially sealed off the city, he said.
This has led to incoming military supplies to Houthi militias in Aden being blocked and has forced them out of their hideouts in the city, where they are then vulnerable to coalition airpower or to being apprehended by Hadi’s loyalists on the ground.
Local sources in Aden told Asharq Al-Awsat that 40 Houthi fighters had handed themselves over to Hadi loyalists on Sunday.
The sources also appeared to confirm Asiri’s comments on the Houthi retreat, saying this came after convoys carrying military supplies from the Taiz governorate, 111 miles (179 kilometers) northwest of Aden, were blocked from entering the city due to their route being targeted by coalition airstrikes.
Hadi loyalists have now begun to spread throughout Aden to fill the vacuum created by the fleeing Houthi militias and their allies in the military and security establishments who are loyal to Yemen’s ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The former leader has allied himself and his forces with the Houthi movement.
Houthi losses were not limited to Aden, according to sources in the central Ma’rib province, the country’s oil and gas hub.
“Clashes continued for the third day in a row [on Monday] in the Sarwah area, where forces loyal to the legitimate political power [represented by President Hadi] captured the local souk and council building, which the Houthis had previously taken over,” a local source from Ma’rib told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Reports from Sana’a, where the Houthis still hold sway, also suggest the Shi’ite movement has been kidnapping and imprisoning members of rival groups, especially those from the Sunni Islamist Al-Islah party.
Observers have told Asharq Al-Awsat this has come as a result of the Saudi-led airstrikes weakening the Houthi presence in Sana’a, with many members of the group’s militias being sent to other parts of the country. They say the Shi’ite group wishes to show it still maintains control in Sana’a despite its weakened presence in the capital.
The Saudi-led airstrikes against the Houthis in Yemen, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, have now entered their 18th day, and involve a number of the Kingdom’s Arab allies, including the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan.
Arafat Madabish contributed additional reporting from Sana’a.