Yemen’s Southern Joint Forces drive Houthis from strategic sites

A spokesman said the forces were still committed to the ceasefire

Armed Houthi followers ride on the back of a truck outside a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen April 8, 2020. Picture taken April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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The Southern Joint Forces backed by the Arab Coalition have scored crucial gains this week, driving Houthi rebels out of key sites in northern and southern provinces, a military representative said on Monday.

Forces launched a large-scale offensive that morning on sites still controlled by the Houthi rebels in northern Al Fakher and in the mountainous area of Al Aoud, between Al Dhalea and Ibb, killing 26 Houthi fighters.

The operation also destroyed four military vehicles and seized a large amount of ammunition and other military equipment, the SJF spokesperson for the Al Dhalea military region, Captain Fuad Jubari, told The National.

“The troops liberated key sites in the Hejar area near Al Aoud mountain in southern Ibb province such as the strategic mountain of Al Karhaa, which overlooks the villages of Azab and Beit Al Shargi, and the main road linking the province of Ibb, northern Yemen, with the southern provinces of Al Dhalea, Lahj and Aden,” he said.

Capt Jubari said the offensive was a response to Houthi attacks on sites controlled by their forces in the province of Ibb.

“We are still fully committed to the ceasefire which was announced by the Arab Coalition and the UN, but we were forced to take such a proactive action as the rebels continued their provocative penetrations and continued to push huge military reinforcements from the northern provinces of Thamar and Ibb to the northern fronts of Al Dhalea in the last couple of weeks,” Capt Jubari said.

The Houthi militia has also stepped up attacks on civilians who live in northern Al Dhalea, shelling their homes with far-range artillery and mortars, the captain said.

"Since the ceasefire was announced the rebels keep shelling our residences day and night. Last week, they shelled our residences randomly with mortars, causing serious injury for a woman in her forties, and caused damage for many other residences in our village," a resident of Al Mashareeh village in northern Al Dhalea told The National.

Separately, a tribal mediator in Sanaa succeeded on Monday in securing the freedom of Yemeni former minister of culture Khaled Al Ruwaishan, who was abducted by Houthi militia from his home in Sanaa on Sunday. His kidnap may have been linked to comments he posted on his Facebook page, on which he criticised Houthi mismanagement and praised soldiers fighting the group in Marib province.

A source in Sanaa told The National that efforts exerted by a tribal mediator succeeded in convincing the Houthi authorities to free the former minister following threats made by his tribe to escalate their fight the rebels.