Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

Yemeni forces retake mountain in Dhalea province

Forty rebels killed after putting up heavy resistance

A government-allied fighter prepares a mortar round near the frontline in Dhalea province. Ali Mahmood/The National 
A government-allied fighter prepares a mortar round near the frontline in Dhalea province. Ali Mahmood/The National 

Pro-government forces seized two positions from Houthi rebels in Yemen's Dhalea province after heavy fighting on Saturday night.

Control of the Shaddad Fort mountain and the nearby village of Sawlan in Mureis district of Dhalea, gives the the government forces a strategic position to launch an attack on the adjacent Nasah mountain that is still held by the rebels.

"The battle through which we gained control over this mountain was really hard – we never experienced such a battle since the beginning of the war with the Houthi militia. Forty rebels were killed in the battle because they know the importance of taking over the strategic mountain of Shaddad fort for them," Lt Maeen Al Sheikh, commander of the battalion deployed on the Shaddad Fort mountain, told The National.

Dhalea has seen fierce fighting since last month when Houthis seized parts of the province that had been the first to be recaptured the rebels soon after civil war broke out in early 2015. An Arab military coalition intervened on behalf of the government in March that year, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE playing leading roles.

The pro-government fighters on the front line in northern Mureis district are a combination of mainly UAE-backed forces. Al Zeela village and the Wynan area are controlled by the UAE-trained Security Belt forces along with a battalion of Amalikah Brigades that has just arrived from Hodeidah province. Large numbers of fighters from the Southern Resistance as well as local militiamen are preparing to join the battle in coming days.

"We are a mixture of UAE-backed forces. We are playing the biggest role in the battle with the Houthi rebels not just in Mureis area but on three other fronts in northern Dhalea," Naser Saleh, an Al Amalikah fighter, told The National.

"We were transferred from Hodeidah to fight the rebels because we felt that there is a plot by some military commanders and sheikhs in the area. They were supporting the legitimate government and suddenly they changed face and co-operated with the Houthi rebels and allowed them back into Dhalea, but the plot was foiled."

The battle in Mureis has become the latest flashpoint in Yemen's war because of the large number of fighters deployed by both sides and also the strategic importance of Dhalea, which sits halfway between the rebel-held Sanaa province in northern Yemen and the southern province of Aden where the government is based.

Dhalea also has symbolic importance as the first province to be retaken from the rebels, two months after they seized it in 2015.

Updated: April 8, 2019 12:23 PM

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