Yemeni forces clear Dhubab ahead of push for Mokha

Pro-government forces in coastal district of Taez poised to push north towards key Red Sea port.

Smoke billows in the distance as Yemeni pro-government forces patrol during clashes against Houthi rebels western Dhubab district on January 9, 2017. Saleh Al Obeidi / AFP
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ADEN // Yemeni pro-government forces drove the last Houthi rebels from Dhubab district of Taez province on Friday and swept the area for land mines to clear their advance up the Red Sea coast towards the port of Mokha.

"We did not stop the offensive against the Houthis but we do not want to lose more fighters, so we delayed the offensive because of the land mines," a leader of the popular resistance militia in Taez told The National.

Pro-government forces captured Dhubab from the Houthis last week with backing from the Saudi-led coalition, which has provided military equipment and air support. Dozens of rebel fighters were killed in the battle for the district, along with at least 13 government fighters including a general. The militia leader said the rebels had abandoned weapons and the bodies of slain comrades when they fled the area.

“We swept the land mines and now we are coordinating with the pro-government forces in Al Wazeyah to resume the offensive, which aims to reach Mokha port,” said the leader, who asked not to be named.

The next target for the forces in Dhubab district will be Al Gadeeda area, on the coastal road to Mokha which is 37 kilometres away, he said.

The resistance leader said loyalist forces had already taken some mountains in Al Wazeyah district, which borders Dhubab to the north-east.

“Sporadic clashes are ongoing in Kahboob and Al Kadaha areas of Al Wazeyah, but they have not started their offensive against the Houthis. We will launch ours simultaneously,” he said.

“The Saudi-led air strikes helped the forces to advance in the last few days, and they will play a key role in the advance in coming days.”

Faced with the coastal offensive, the Houthi rebels this week blocked and mined the main road connecting Taez province and the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, further north from Mokha.

The resistance leader said pro-government forces planned to reopen the road as they advance.