Arab Coalition jets destroy Houthi weapons depot in Yemen's Dhalea province

Strikes add to mounting rebel losses since they attacked the southern province in March

epa07477171 A Yemeni pro-government soldier wears a machine gun bullet belt as he takes part in military operations on Houthi positions in the southern province of Dhale, Yemen, 31 March 2019. According to reports, heavy fighting is currently taking place in the southern Yemeni province of Dhale between the Saudi-backed Yemeni pro-government forces and the Houthi rebels after the rebels tried to capture the province near the port city of Aden where the temporary seat of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
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Arab Coalition jets hit rebel weapons stores, vehicles and reinforcements in a new operation to support government forces northern areas of Yemen's Dhalea province.

Capain Majed Al Shouaibi, spokesman for the government's Southern Joint Forces in Dhalea, told The National that several raids north of Qatabah city on Wednesday inflicted fatal blows on the Houthi rebels' capabilities in the southern province.

“The Arab Coalition launched a new operation named ‘Steadfast Mountains’ with intensified air strikes targeting weapons depots in a big building in Suleim area, west of Qatabah. The air strike destroyed the main Houthi weapons depot, which kept burning with a series of explosions for more than half an hour.”

Cpt Al Ashouaibi said further strikes destroyed two tanks and a platform used by the Houthis to fire Katyusha rockets in Al Fakher area, as well as two military vehicles in Habeel Al Kalb, also north-west Qatabah, one of which was carrying rebel fighters.

Rebel shelling of densely populated areas of Suleim on Tuesday killed two women and seriously wounded a man. In Al Fakher, the rebels have arrested dozens of civilians who refused to leave their homes, accusing them of working for the pro-government forces, residents told The National.

The rebels launched early morning attacks on Thursday against government positions in the Baja area and in the villages of Batar and Al Mashareeh on the Hajer front west of Qatabah.

It was an attempt to ease the "tremendous pressure" put on them by government and coalition forces in Shakhab and Suleim, Fuad Jubari, a journalist on the Hajer front, told The National.

The Arab Coalition sent reinforcements that arrived from Aden on Wednesday to front lines in northern Dhalea as a part of the newly launched campaign, Cpt Al Shouaibi said.

He said the operation will be in two phases, the first to drive the rebels out of Al Fakher and the mountains of Al Oud on the border with Ibb province, and the second to liberate the districts of Damt and Al Hasha so that the front lines are pushed back to Ibb, which is still fully controlled by the Houthis.

The Southern Forces have inflicted heavy losses of men and equipment on the Houthis in northern Dhalea since March, leading to calls by the rebels' supporters for a change in tactics. Houthi media activists said that more than 1,000 of their fighters were killed and hundreds arrested.