Pro-government forces in Yemen wrest control of Al Wazeyah from Houthis
ADEN // Pro-government forces in Yemen seized full control of Al Wazeyah district in Taez on Thursday.
They also advanced against the Houthi rebels in other areas of the province seen as crucial to retaking the capital.
Fighters from the popular resistance, the Yemeni military’s fourth region and troops from the Saudi-led coalition forced the Houthis to flee to the rebel-held port city of Mokha.
Al Wazeyah district borders Mokha district and is about 100 kilometres south-west of Taez city, the provincial capital. The district is also near the main road to Al Hodeidah province, which is under the control of the Houthis and their allies from renegade units of the military.
“The Houthis fled towards Mokha, and they are trying to gather there, but today we started to gather the forces in Al Wazeyah district, and then we will storm Mokha area. But we need time to draw a plan for the storming of Mokha,” said a resistance leader, who did not want to be named for fear of Houthi retaliation.
The pro-government forces have now blocked the road leading to Mokha from Al Wazeyah and Taez city, the source said.
He said the capture of mountain areas in Al Wazeyah meant the rebels could no longer use the mountains to launch shelling attacks on pro-government forces and civilians in the district.
“The forces advanced in most of the fronts in Taez city, but the main advance was in Al Wazeyah and the forces are also trying to advance on the front at Al Rahida,” the resistance leader said.
Al Rahida city lies on the main road from Aden to Taez, Yemen’s third largest city, 40 kilometres farther north. Warplanes from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have been targeting Al Rahida heavily in recent days to explode landmines planted on the road leading to the city.
When the Yemeni army and the popular resistance could not advance any more towards Al Rahida, resistance fighters living in the city resorted to street battles.
Moa’ath Al Yaseri, another resistance leader from Taez, said: “Usually fighting on the streets is the last choice, but resistance fighters were forced to engage in street battles in Al Rahida to liberate the city from inside and then they will help in opening the road for the forces to go towards Taez city.”
He said at least two resistance fighters and several Houthis were killed in the fighting in Al Rahida.
Mr Al Yaseri added that if street fighting proved successful in Al Rahida then the resistance would engage in street battles to help liberate other areas of Taez province.
Also on Thursday, forces recaptured Al Omri camp in Taez’s coastal Dhubab district, and this will help the forces to advance north towards Mokha, he said.
Meanwhile, the coalition carried out at least 10 air strikes against rebel positions in and around Al Rahida during the night, military sources said.
Retaking Taez city is seen as crucial for the recapture of other central provinces and opening the way to the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa further north.
It is also important for securing the south, where fighters loyal to Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi – backed by the coalition – have retaken five provinces from the rebels since July, including Aden, where Mr Hadi has set up base.
In their advance out of the south, pro-government forces have also been battling rebels in Marib province, east of the capital. Marib was liberated last month but some Houthis who are from the province remain.
Hundreds of reinforcement troops were deployed to the province on Thursday, equipped with dozens of military vehicles newly arrived from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, military sources said.
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Updated: November 20, 2015 04:00 AM