Coalition steps up strikes as allies push into north Yemen

Marib and border area of Jawf targeted as coalition provides reinforcements.

A Yemeni stands next to a tank during clashes between fighters from the Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to Yemen's exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, and Houthi rebels in Taez city on August 23, 2015. Ahmad Al Basha / AFP
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SANAA // The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen intensified its air strikes in the central province of Marib and the adjacent border area of Jawf on Monday, in order to allow allies on the ground to push north toward rebel strongholds.

Marib’s loyalist forces also received major reinforcements, including hundreds of Saudi-trained troops, ambulances and armoured personnel carriers manned by Saudi and Emirati soldiers, pro-government officials said.

The forces aim to take Saada province, the main northern stronghold of the Houthi rebels, they said.

One official said more than 50 Houthis had been killed in the strikes in Marib.

Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against an array of forces including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, extremist militants and troops loyal to exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Pro-government forces recently pushed the Houthis out of several key southern areas of Yemen following an offensive launched after the recapture of the port city of Aden in mid July.

They are currently battling to retake the third-largest city, Taez, where shelling by Houthi and pro-Saleh forces killed 14 civilians on Monday.

The coalition also launched air raids on military bases and Houthi positions in the south-western city, residents said, but no casualties were reported.

“The situation is awful and the fighting is happening on many fronts. All the hospitals have closed except for one, so there’s a shortage of medical care. Two rockets fell on the Deluxe neighbourhood, killing 14 people, among them women and children,” said Taez resident Abdul Aziz Mohammed.

“Taez is being devastated.”

Fighters loyal to the exiled government have been contesting control of Taez – also known as Yemen’s cultural capital – with the Houthis since April. Hundreds of combatants and civilians have been killed.

Pro-government forces claim to now control three-quarters of the city.

In Aden, Al Qaeda militants and other extremists continue to patrol the streets in some areas, according to pro-Hadi officials. Hundreds of Al Qaeda militants hold some key areas in the port city, exploiting a vacuum left by pro-government forces pushing north, they said.

“We have a shortage of men,” said a security official said. “Getting equipment [from coalition countries] is easy. Getting men to operate them is hard.”

He said Mr Hadi’s government, in response, sent youths to receive police training in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

* Agencies