Dozens of rebels killed as southern forces make gains on Yemen front

Local commanders say victory opens up possibility of a push into Ibb province

A man chants slogans as he and supporters of the Houthi movement attend a rally to celebrate following claims of military advances by the group near the borders with Saudi Arabia, in Sanaa, Yemen October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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An offensive by the Southern Joint Forces has driven Houthi rebels from nearly 80 per cent of northern Al Dhalea province in southern Yemen, the force said on Wednesday.

The operation started early Tuesday and saw the joint forces take the area of Al Zubairiyat, the villages of Suleim and Baja, and the strategic area of Al Fakher, which connects Al Dhalea province to Ibb province in the north-west.

Capt Majed Al Shouaibi, the spokesman for the Southern Joint Forces, told The National that troops had staged a three-pronged attack.

“The first was from the mountains of Bab Ghalak in western Qatabah and the second from the Shakhab area towards Suleim village and reaching the strategic area of Al Fakher, considered a gateway to Ibb province," Capt Al Shouaibi said.

"The third axis was from the Hajer front towards Baja village in northern Hajer in north-west Al Dhalea province.”

At least 115 Houthi rebels were killed in the fighting, said Fuad Gubari, an independent journalist covering the battle.

“Most of the Houthi fighters were killed in the battle on Tuesday," Gubari said.

The Southern Joint Forces seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition, vehicles, technical equipment and drones stored in warehouses in Al Fakher area.

"We seized two Russian tanks, along with a large number of thermal rockets, RPG launchers, guns and dozens of ammunition boxes left by the Houthi fighters who fled their positions as our forces took over Al Fakher area," Col Haiytham Qasim, a field commander in the Southern Joint Forces, told The National.

Col Qasim said that the advance put them in a position to turn the tide in the region and advance towards neighbouring Ibb province.

Capt Al Shouaibi said that the Southern Joint Forces would push to clear the last pockets still occupied by Houthi rebels in Murais and Damt district.

He said they would also drive the rebels out of Ibb in the near future.