Southern Resistance joins the battle for Taez
Al DHABAB, TAEZ PROVINCE // Southern resistance fighters in Yemen have joined the battle to liberate the south-western province of Taez from the Houthis and their allies, a senior military official has said.
The deputy of the pro-government military council in Taez, Yousef Al Shiragi, said the Southern Resistance – which helped to liberate Aden and the other southern provinces of Abyan, Lahj and Al Dhale earlier this year, along with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition – was coordinating with local resistance forces. He said the Southern Resistance had supplied them with ammunition, as well as fighters.
“Two hundred fighters from Al Sabaiha in [the southern province of Lahj] are fighting with us on the Al Dhabab front” in Taez, Brigadier Shiragi told Saudi Arabia’s Okadh newspaper.
Al Dhabab, located south-west of the provincial capital, also called Taez, is under the control of the resistance. However, the areas in between Al Dhabab and Taez city remain in the hands of the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The rebels have surrounded Taez city, preventing water, food and medicine from getting in. They also control some areas inside.
Gun battles flared up on Saturday between southern fighters and the Houthis in the area of Al Madaribah on the border between Lahj and Taez provinces, leaving an unknown number of fighters killed and wounded, military sources said.
The southern fighters said they were defending the area against rebels trying to reach the shores of the strategic Bab Al Mandeb strait, some 50 kilometres away, which was seized by forces loyal to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi last month.
Witnesses said that many residents fled the area due to heavy fighting.
Brig Shiragi said southern fighters were also manning checkpoints along the road connecting Aden province to Al Dhabab to ensure safe travel for humanitarian aid and military reinforcements.
Gawad Al Sobaihi, a Southern Resistance fighter from Al Sabaiha, has been manning a checkpoint in the Al Turbah area of Taez’s Al Shimayateen district since October 20. He previously took part in the battle to recapture Lahj province from the Houthis.
“I am standing here to help in breaking the siege on the war-torn city of Taez,” the 28-year-old told The National. “I am willing to fight with the resistance of Taez until the liberation of the province, as we want to liberate the whole country from the Houthis and not only Taez or the southern provinces.”
Mr Al Sobaihi said that while medicine has reached Al Dhabab by road from Aden, no military reinforcements from the coalition have yet passed through.
“We hope that the resistance of the south or the coalition forces in the south will send military reinforcements to Taez along this road and we will guarantee delivering it to the Al Dhabab front,” he added.
Dhia Al Haq, a leading figure in Taez’s Popular Resistance, said that of province’s 23 districts, 18 are now under the control of resistance forces. However, while these 18 districts are largely rural and the Houthis still have control of some important areas, Mr Al Haq believes that with reinforcements, the province could be liberated soon.
“The Houthis only control the entries of [Taez] city and some areas inside the city, in addition to Mokha and some other areas,” he said. “A ground force should come from Aden or another province to break the siege and then liberation will be an easy task.”
In Bayda province, which borders the capital Sanaa to the south, overnight clashes in the areas of Al Zaher and Al Naem left 19 rebels and 14 resistance fighters dead, tribal and medical sources said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, dozens of Houthi rebels were reported killed or injured as southern fighters repelled an attempt to capture Dimt district in Al Dhale province. The rebels had crossed into the loyalist-held province from the neighbouring central province of Ibb, which is still under the control of the Houthis.
Coalition warplanes raided Houthi positions in several provinces, including in Ibb where air strikes destroyed rebel vehicles.
Also on Saturday, the United Nations said that two of its contractors had been detained in Yemen, but gave no further details on the incident.
A US state department official said the department was aware of reports that two American citizens had been detained at Sanaa airport, which is held by the Houthis, but did not elaborate.
* With additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse
Updated: November 1, 2015 04:00 AM