AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni troops and allied tribesmen, backed by air cover from the Arab coalition, have seized control of a large territory in the northern province of Jouf, the first major territorial gains since the beginning of a Houthi offensive on Marib, local army officers told Arab News on Thursday.
The Defense Ministry announced recapturing Al-Jadafer, a large desert area in Jouf, putting government forces on the edges of provincial capital Hazem city and other strategic locations.
Maj. Gen. Amen Al-Waili, commander of the 6th Military Region, first announced the Jouf gains on Wednesday, saying the army was pushing toward new areas as the Houthis had suffered heavy setbacks and casualties.
“After this remarkable progress, the national army forces are (now) on the outskirts of Hazem,” Al-Waili was quoted as saying by state media.
The Houthis seized Hazem and surrounding areas last March, paving the way for their fighters to push toward the oil- and gas-rich province of Marib.
But the army’s territorial gains in Jouf have boosted the morale of loyalists as well as alleviating Houthi pressure on government troops in Marib.
An officer in Marib, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arab News that they had pushed back Houthi attacks on Serwah and other contested areas.
Army troops and allied tribesmen on Thursday captured Zor, a small village in Serwah hosting displacement camps, and surrounding mountains and areas after clashes with rebels.
Dozens of fighters were killed or wounded in the Murad area as army troops and tribesmen repelled their offensive, the Defense Ministry said.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani tweeted the latest gains in Marib, saying that troops were determined to recapture areas that had fallen to the Houthis.
“With their high morale and determination, the heroes are moving toward recapturing areas that the terrorist Houthi militia controlled during their latest escalation,” he said.
Earlier this month the Houthis resumed a large-scale offensive to capture the city of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen. The Defense Ministry recently sent hundreds of troops and equipment to push back the Houthis.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak is visiting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to mobilize diplomatic efforts to stop Houthi attacks and explain the government's perspective on plans for ending the war.
Bin Mubarak told Arab News that he would visit the capitals of Gulf states to garner support for the government, explaining political developments and coordinating positions with GCC officials.
Separately, the UN said that new requests by the Houthis were further delaying its experts from examining a decaying tanker that is loaded with more than a million barrels of crude oil.
It warned last year that the tanker, the FSO Safer, had not been maintained for more than five years. Experts fear it could explode or leak, causing huge environmental damage to marine life and also affect shipping in the Red Sea.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the additional requests focused on “logistics and security arrangements,” and that it was “now difficult to say exactly when the mission could be deployed,” according to an AP news agency report.