The dead has included at least 20 field commanders; others have been captured alive
Pro-government fighters dance after engaging fire with Huthis on June 7, 2018, near the city of Al Jah in the Hodeida province, 50 kilometres from the port city of Hodeida, which the Iran-backed Huthi insurgents seized in 2014. / AFP / NABIL HASSAN
Dubai: Yemeni officials say heavy fighting between pro-government forces and Iran-backed militants has killed hundreds in recent days.
At least 250 Al Houthi militiamen have been killed in clashes with Yemeni nationalist forces in the south of Hodeida in past week, according to figures released by the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, which quoted the Yemeni Ministry of Defence’s official website, September 26.
The Al Houthi dead have included 20 field commanders.
At least 143 militiamen were also captured alive, according to the defence ministry’s website.
The announcement came as the Yemeni army troops continued their advance towards the strategic coastal city of Hodeida.
Much of the latest fighting has centered around Quba, which is located five kilometres south of the Hodeida’s airport.
Regaining the strategic city means that the Iran-backed militants will be deprived of a main gateway where they smuggle in weapons and threaten the shipping movements on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, as well as a major passage to the capital Sana’a.
The impending offensive comes amid a string of victories by the Yemenis against Al Houthis along the Red Sea coast.
The Arab coalition and the joint Yemeni Resistance Forces are steadily advancing toward the strategic city which could mark the beginning of the end of the Al Houthi coup.
The militants have already been ousted from Al Mo’mary Camp, east of Zubab City, west of Taiz, a strategic area which foiled Al Houthi plans to control the Bab Al Mandab strait and the international maritime navigation that passes through it.
The Saudi-led coalition has foiled many attempts made by the Iran-backed militants to disrupt and attack international ships passing through the area.
Recently, they destroyed two booby-trapped boats that targeted an oil tanker in the Red Sea.
Key maritime route At least 12 per cent of the world’s oil and merchandise passes through the Red Sea, which makes the issue of international concern and importance.
Hodeida lies 230 kilometres from Sana’a, which Al Houthis
seized in a coup in 2014.
This prompted a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen the following year, aimed at restoring the internationally-recognised government of exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The coalition accuses Al Houthis of using Hodeida as a launch pad for attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and for smuggling in weapons.
Al Houthis have in recent months ramped up missile attacks against neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The Governor of Hodeida, Al Hassan Taher, has said that government troops have drawn up a plan to partially encircle the city.
“The army troops are advancing towards Hodeida and are working to encircle it from two directions: in the south and south-east with the aim of blocking any supplies to the [Al Houthi] militias from Sana’a and Taiz [in the south],” Taher told the London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat recently.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia’s main coalition ally, set up a force in early 2018 to ramp up the coastal offensive.