Dozens of Houthi fighters killed in blast at Hodeidah arms depot

Depot was built in civilian neighbourhood of Al Duraihimi city

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold up their weapons as they attend a gathering to show their support for the ongoing peace talks in Sanaa, Yemen. U.N. experts say fuel is being shipped illegally from Iran to Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen to finance their war against the government, and both sides are violating international law with their military campaigns and arbitrary detention of rivals. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
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Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed and others injured in a large explosion at a weapons and ammunition depot on Wednesday.

The rebel fighters were at the centre of Al Duraihimi city, south-east of Hodeidah, said Col Wathah Al Dubaish, spokesman for the pro-government forces.

"The operations room of the joint forces received a call reporting a huge explosion at a weaponry and ammunition cache affiliated with the Houthis, who have held the centre of Al Duraihimi city since August 2018," Col Al Dubaish told the National.

He said the depot was placed among the homes of citizens.

A soldier from Al Amalikah Brigades told The National that he had heard the explosion and saw huge flames rise amid more blasts.

“Later on, we saw many motorcycles taking casualties out of the neighbourhood,” he said.

The neighbourhood is thought to be the last Houthi pocket in the city.

“Our forces couldn’t launch a last push to take over this neighbourhood because the Houthis have taken about 50 of the residents as human shields," Col Al Dubaish said.

"We have been surrounding the city centre trying to put pressure on the Houthis to surrender, to save the lives of the civilians."

Meanwhile, the Southern Resistance and Security Belt forces have recaptured key sites in the northern Qatabah district in Al Dhalea province, southern Yemen, during intense battles with the Houthis on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Our forces were able to recapture Kardah area along with Humar in north-west Qatabah, and secured Al Sheim highway in northern Al Dhalea province," a military source said.

Al Sheim is the main route that links the southern provinces with the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa.

Rebels have launched a major campaign to take control of southern Yemen after the ceasefire in Hodeidah.

They withdrew more than three brigades of fighters from Hodeidah and tried to storm Al Dhalea from five fronts.