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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Yemeni forces make strategic advance against rebels in Taez

Pro-government forces block main route between besieged provincial capital and rebel-held port of Hodeidah

A fighter patrols Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeidah on May 10, 2017. Government forces said on August 4, 2017 that they had blocked the main route between the rebel-besieged city of Taez and Hodeidah. Abduljabbar Zeyad / Reuters
A fighter patrols Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeidah on May 10, 2017. Government forces said on August 4, 2017 that they had blocked the main route between the rebel-besieged city of Taez and Hodeidah. Abduljabbar Zeyad / Reuters

Yemeni government forces captured a strategic junction in Mokha district of Taez province on Friday after two days of heavy fighting with Houthi rebels.

“After fierce fighting that began on Thursday in the Basal market area near Al Mokha junction, the national army managed to recapture the junction, in which the militias suffered heavy losses of lives and equipment,” a military official told the Yemeni government news agency.

Eight Houthi fighters were killed in the battle as the army took control of the junction.

Military sources said the victory was of great strategic importance for Operation Golden Spear, the government offensive launched in January to drive back Houthi forces in Taez and Lahj provinces.

Control over Mokha district is essential to break the Houthi siege of Taez city, and securing the junction blocks the main route between Taez and Hodeidah province, where the port of Hodeidah is vital to the supply lines of the Iran-backed rebels.

Supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the forces of Golden Spear are continuing a sweeping advance in Taez, liberating more rebel-held areas after taking control earlier this year of Al Zahari, the last area of Mokha that was still held by the Houthis.

The government's forces are seeking to gain control of the entire stretch of Yemen's Red Sea coast, from the Bab Al Mandeb strait north to Hodeidah and beyond to the port of Midi in Hajjah province, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies intervened in Yemen's war in March 2015 on behalf of the internationally backed government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.