Yemen’s internationally recognized government forces have retaken the entire Shabwa province from the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group, officials said Tuesday.
The developments are a blow to the rebels after government forces earlier this month made significant advances in the country’s south.
The government, aided by pro-government militias, the Giant Brigades and Saudi-led coalition air strikes, broke through Shabwa this month and retook the entire province in a 10-day battle, the officials said.
The military spokesman, Mohammed al-Naqib, said they had hit “all targets” and driven the Houthis out of the districts of Ain, Usailan and Bayhan.
Governor Awad al-Awlaki also announced Shabwa’s release, and thanked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for funding the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis, but the two rebel leaders admitted to the news agency Associated Press that they lost control of Shabwa.
The rebels fled to two nearby provinces, Bayda and Marib, said the two, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The takeover of Shabwa would allow government forces to cut off a key supply line for the Houthis, who have been attacking the main city of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen, since early last year. The rebel group has repeatedly resisted UN and US diplomatic efforts to halt attacks on Marib, as well as missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia.
UN-led efforts for negotiations have failed to make any significant progress in Yemen’s years-long conflict. A civil war that began in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forced the government to flee to the south, and were later exiled in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US at the time, entered the war months later to try to restore the government to power.
The conflict has turned into a regional proxy war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and rebels. The war also created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people suffering from food shortages and without medical care. That war and pushed the country to the brink of famine. [ab/uh]