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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Houthis suffer as Yemen army cuts main supply routes

The Iran-backed Houthis face difficulties supplying outlying militias as the Yemeni army continues to pinch their stream to weaponry

This picture was taken in Sanaa on April 28, 2018. Yahra Arhab / EPA
This picture was taken in Sanaa on April 28, 2018. Yahra Arhab / EPA

Yemen’s army, along with the Arab coalition, has been working to sever critical supply lines of the Houthi rebels in a push to recapture Hodeidah and Sanaa on behalf of the legitimate government.

The Iran-backed Houthi insurgency sprawling from the capital Sanaa is facing difficulty supplying its outlying militias as the Yemeni army continues to pinch their stream to weaponry.

The most recent campaign took place in the Taez governorate, located at a central crossroads connecting Sanaa to the north with the rest of the country.

Control for the area has shifted several times between Houthis and the Yemeni army since fighting broke out in 2015. In February 2018, army forces — with UAE air support — captured Haiys and cut off the supply route that links Taez province with the port city of Hodeidah.

The military manoeuvre came at a critical point as Houthi militias were beginning to entrench themselves in the city and secure supply routes from the rebel-held north.

“They were tightening their hold around the city from all the directions, but as they lost their supply route, which extends from Hodeidah, they started to suffer and that caused a big loss for them,” Col Abdulbaset Al Baher, a military official in Taez, told The National.

The rebel group is now forced to transfer supplies and reinforcements via rigorous mountain corridors and desert routes, exposing themselves to Arab coalition air strikes.

Control of the route opened the opportunity for Yemeni forces to capture the Khalid bin Al Waleed base in Al Mokha and secure a portion of the Red Sea coast that leads to Hodeidah — the coalition’s second biggest target.

The plan is based off the effective implementation of cutting off supply routes in Aden and Lahj in 2015 when the Houthi militia was sending supply to the southern region.

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"Cutting Akkan bridge off was a fatal blow for the Houthi militia, which lost the main artery used to supply its militants in Aden, Lahj, and the Al Anad area," said Maj Gen Naser Salem Al Radfani, a commander in the south of the country.

The bridge, according to Maj Gen Al Radfani, was being used to transport ammunition and goods imported from Iran through Sanaa airport to Houthi militias in the south.

Lt Mohammed Al Naqeeb said coalition jets were forced to launch air strikes on Sanaa airport in 2015 for that reason.

"We all remember when the first Iranian aircraft landed in Sanaa airport in March 2015, when the Houthi militia announced that two Iranian air flights will start landing in Sanaa airport every day,” he said, adding: “It was an indication that the Houthis smuggled weapons, military equipment as well as military experts from Iran in a manner arranged in advance.”

The Yemeni army and coalition forces have maintained control of the south, and have pursued the Houthi rebels through the Red Sea coast.

The Arab coalition followed the same strategy, prioritising the liberation of areas surround Hodeidah and Sanaa, where routes are used by the Houthi militia to transfer their goods.

The north, where Yemen shares more than a 1,000 kilometre border with Saudi Arabia, has been used as the source from which to boost its militants on the western coast front and on the fronts along the far north.

“Along the western coast front line, the Yemeni army launched in January 2017 an offensive to liberate the port of Mocha, which was the second fatal blow for the Houthi militia,” said Maj Gen Abdulrahman Al Rubaiee, a commander in the Yemeni forces.

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Tariq Razzaz, an Aden-based journalist, said that the Houthis suffered a “great blow” when Yemeni army troops cut off the international route that links the country with Saudi Arabia.

“The second important route used by the Houthi militia to help its fighters in the Al Jawf province is the one that links Al Jawf with Sada. It was cut off in March 2018,” he said.

Most recently, the Yemeni army — backed by the Arab coalition — launched an offensive to cut the route that links Sanaa-Ibb with Taez.

"In case our forces cut the route that links Sanaa with Ibb and Taez, the Houthis will lose their control over the province because it is the last supply route they have,” said Col Al Baher. “They are going to be stabbed in the heart if this supply route is cut.”

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