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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Yemen's president orders military chief to push for Sanaa

Officials confirm successful air strikes on Houthi reinforcements north-west of rebel-held capital 

Yemeni fighters, loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, hold position during an offensive against Houthi rebels positions in the Nihem region, east of Sana'a. Soliman Al Nowab / EPA
Yemeni fighters, loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, hold position during an offensive against Houthi rebels positions in the Nihem region, east of Sana'a. Soliman Al Nowab / EPA

The Yemeni army chief of staff Major General Tahir Al Aqaili said the army is ready to advance towards the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, after recent victories in a renewed military offensive.

The officer announced the pledge on Yemeni official news agency, SEBA, after receiving a call from the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, urging him on to rid Yemen of the Iranian-backed rebels.

"The chief of staff said that army troops as well as the public resistance are ready to advance towards Sanaa to liberate it of the sectarian militia," said Yemeni army Brigadier Abdo Megeli.

Meanwhile, 20 Houthi militants were killed in a Saudi-led air strike on the western battlefront as part of a push to recapture the port city of Hodeidah.

Lieutenant Mohammed Mohsen, a commander in the Yemeni army, said the attack targeted reinforcements on their way to support the Houthis who are now struggling to fend off an offensive launched by the Arab coalition.

The city on the Red Sea coast is the only major port under rebel control and widely regarded as second only to the capital, Sanaa — also still in Houthi hands — in its strategic importance.

The bombing struck a Houthi convoy carrying militants, equipment and motorcycles — the vehicle of choice for rebel snipers.

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Read more:

More than 80 Houthi officers killed in renewed offensive

Top Houthi officers killed in port city

Houthi rebel documents show 'cracks in the ranks'

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In retaliation, the Iranian-backed group launched an attack on villages in the Haja province 120km north-west of Sanaa, killing dozens of civilians in a violent offensive.

"Many civilians were killed in a heavy shelling as the rebels aggressively pounded the residences of citizens, most of them are women and children," Brig Megeli said.

The attack violates a ceasefire the Houthis signed with Bani Sara’a tribesmen in meetings with the sheikhs of the several tribes in Haja province, after fighting with them since November.

Over the weekend Houthis took advantage of that ceasefire on the battlefront to support their troops by shelling tribal villages in the province with whom the rebels have been at war.

“The rebels broke the ceasefire and carried out an offensive against the tribes in a severe violation of tribal laws which criminalise such shameful actions," the army spokesman said.

President Hadi's army have ramped up offensives on three fronts — on the south-eastern Al Bayda province, in the north and along the Red Sea coast — since two Houthi missiles were launched on Saudi Arabia on November 4 and December 19.