Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Yemen's southern forces hold back Houthi assault

The offensive was the most severe rebel push in months

A fighter loyal to Yemen's Houthi rebels holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle showing a picture of other slain comrades as he stands guard during a rally commemorating the Shiite Muslim religious holiday of Ashura in the capital Sanaa. AFP
A fighter loyal to Yemen's Houthi rebels holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle showing a picture of other slain comrades as he stands guard during a rally commemorating the Shiite Muslim religious holiday of Ashura in the capital Sanaa. AFP

Nine Houthi fighters were killed and dozens injured when fierce clashes renewed between the Houthi militia and the Southern Joint Forces north of the coastal city of Aden on Tuesday night.

The fighting in Al Dhalea province raged around the villages of Al Zubairiyat, Al Reibi and eastern Al Fakher. The fighting broadened to the villages of Habeel Al Dhuba and Al Shaghader in the centre of the Hajer front as Houthi rebels shelled the areas, Col Haiytham Qasim, a field commander in the Southern Joint Forces told The National.

“Our forces responded to the intensified Houthi attacks, using artillery and tanks to shell the sites of the Houthi rebels who found themselves under pressure of our heavy weapons, Col Qasim said. “This forced them to draw their fighters back after many fall dead.”

He said it was the most intense push the Iran-backed rebels have made in the last two months, “but it was totally foiled.”

The fighting continued for more than three hours and the Southern forces destroyed more than three Houthi military vehicles and a Soviet-era ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’ anti-aircraft gun in Al Reibi area eastern Al Fakher.

The Houthi rebels have moved a large number of reinforcements to the fronts in Al Dhalea province in the recent days.

Cpt Majed Al Shouaibi, the spokesperson of the Southern Joint Forces, told The National that over the last three days, the new reinforcements and weapons have been arriving from Damt and Ibb province.

Separately, the Houthi rebels continued their violations for the ceasefire in Hodeidah in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a pro-government military source reported that the rebels had also shelled their forces around Al Duraihimi, on the east of Hodeidah in breach of a ceasefire deal agreed in Sweden last December.

The source said that the rebels had launched a number of attacks and fired randomly with artillery and mortars into residential areas in the Haiys district of the city.

The attacks came within 24 hours of the last meeting of the Redeployment and Co-ordination committee established by the United Nations to oversee the implementation of the Hodeidah agreement.

Earlier this week, the two sides agreed new procedures to strengthen the de-escalation deal in the port city of Hodeidah.

The city is a key entry route for goods and food to the country’s interior and north.

As government forces pushed slowly into the city to recapture it from the rebels in 2018, the UN convened talks in Stockholm to negotiate a diplomatic solution.

The Coalition supporting the internationally recognised government of Yemen accuses the Houthi rebels of importing weapons from Iran through the port.

The international community were concerned that the government push to capture the city and choke off the Houthi rebel’s supply routes would lead to the port being damaged and result in a major humanitarian disaster for the country.

The Houthi’s also prevented civilians fleeing the city so there was a concern about civilian casualties if the government and its backers entered the town.

As a response to the agreement, the UAE have redeployed soldiers from the province and the government has looked to pull their fighters back. But, reluctance on the part of the Houthi rebels means that little progress has been achieved.

Updated: September 11, 2019 03:47 PM

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