Yemen: Houthis blow up bridges to hamper government advance

Yemen: Houthis blow up bridges to hamper government advance
Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh have exploded bridges in Taiz to thwart an ongoing advance by pro-government forces to retake the southern province.
3 min read
24 November, 2015
Forces loyal to Hadi have continued their advance on Taiz [Getty]
Houthi rebels in Yemen have blown up several bridges in the mountainous southwestern Taiz province to hamper the recent advances of pro-government forces, military sources said on Tuesday.

Government forces backed by air and ground support from a Saudi-led coalition launched an all-out offensive last week to push the rebels out of Taiz and break the siege of loyalists in its provincial capital.

"Houthi rebels blew up several bridges leading to Rahida, the province's second-largest city, to prevent the advance of loyalist forces," a source said.

Pro-government forces continued to make significant advances in the battle to recapture Taiz on Tuesday.

A source told al-Araby al-Jadeed's Yemen correspondent that fierce fighting was ongoing in the al-Sharija and al-Karsh areas of Taiz between the Houthis rebels and pro-government forces, as coalition war planes launched air raids on rebel positions.

"The next couple of hours will be critical in the city of Rahida after government and resistance committee reinforcements arrive," the source added.

Breaking the siege of the government-held provincial capital of Taiz is seen as crucial for the recapture of other central provinces and for opening the way to the rebel-controlled capital Sanaa.

It is also important for securing the south, where loyalists have retaken five provinces since July, including Aden, seat of the provisional government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Loyalist forces are now stationed 12 kilometres away from Rahida after they regained several positions in clashes that lasted until early Tuesday and left five rebels and two pro-government fighters dead, according to the military sources.

On Sunday, forces loyal to Hadi and their allies took full control of the south-western and south-eastern areas of Taiz Province on and advanced towards Rahida on the main road linking the port city of Aden with Taiz.

Coalition air raids targeted different areas in Rahida on Monday, as loyalist forces continued to make advances on the road leading to Taiz.

Pro-government forces have recently cleared out around 8,000 land mines planted by rebels between al-Sharija and Rahida, which were hampering the progress of government forces and have caused casualties.

Hadi visited the frontline in Taiz on Tuesday and took a tour of al-Anad air base in Lahij province in his first trip to the city since it was largely recaptured from the Houthis in August, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service.

"The visit is to oversee the military preparations to liberate Taiz," a source told AFP.

Hadi returned from exile in Saudi Arabia on 18 November, two days after the offensive to retake Taiz began.

The United Nations says more than 5,700 people have been killed since the Saudi-led intervention began in March, nearly half of them civilians.

UN efforts have repeatedly failed to resolve the conflict and no date has yet been set for this month's awaited peace talks in Geneva.