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Yemen: Pro-government forces advance towards key city

Government troops, supported by tribesmen, recapture a main district, linking al-Bayda to the south, from the Houthis
Fighters loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government hold a position against Houthi rebels in Yemen's northeastern Marib province, on 16 April 2021 (AFP)
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Sanaa

Fierce battles raged on several fronts in Yemen’s al-Bayda province on Tuesday, a day after al-Zaher district was overrun by pro-government forces as they pushed to recapture the capital of the central province from the Houthis. 

The push is part of a new military operation launched by government forces with the backing of al-Bayda tribesmen and al-Amaliqa Brigades (The Giants Brigades), consisting of tribesmen from southern provinces.

“The military operation started on Friday, with the objective of reaching the city of al-Bayda, the capital of the province, but we refrained from making an announcement to deny the Houthi militia the chance to ramp up their defence,” a fighter with al-Amaliqa Brigades told Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity.

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He said pro-government forces had made fast advances against the Iran-aligned movement and recaptured the entire district of al-Zaher, which links al-Bayda to Lahj province, adding that people who fled their homes in recent years had now returned.

“Al-Bayda tribesmen played a main role in the advance. They are very happy to have returned home after more than five years of absence,” the fighter said, claiming that the development had encouraged other tribesmen to join the battles in an effort to return to their native areas in other parts of the province.

“Today the battles are ongoing in al-Sawmaa, Dhi Naem and other districts in the province.”

The source, who is originally from Lahj, said their camp had seized different types of weaponry from the Houthis, adding that both sides had suffered casualties, with the Houthis sustaining more losses. 

“Military reinforcements are arriving from the tribes and the military and we will not stop until we reach al-Bayda city,” he said, adding that the ground operation was being backed by air raids. 

'We need a peaceful solution'

Yemen has been embroiled in a war since the Houthis captured capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene on behalf of the internationally recognised government a year later.

Moammar al-Eryani, minister of information, culture and tourism, posted a short video on Twitter Sunday saying celebrations greeted “the arrival of army, resistance and tribes in liberated areas of al-Bayda”.

“Iran-backed Houthi militias have been looting billions from Central Bank branches and public institutions in al-Bayda city since this morning and transporting it on military vehicles out of the province,” Eryani said on Tuesday.

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There are several tribes in al-Bayda, most of whom are in possession of heavy weaponry, but many have fled their homes after battles against the Houthis over the past five years, while some are still fighting.

A Houthi government spokesperson, Dhaif Allah al-Shami, accused the United States of standing behind the military operation in al-Bayda, saying that it went against peace efforts, which Washington and the Saudi-led coalition are blaming the Houthis for obstructing negotiations.

Meanwhile, Mohammed, a resident of the province, said that tribesmen had been fighting on opposite sides on several fronts in al-Bayda. 

“Some tribesmen have joined the fight alongside the Houthis, while others, who fled the province, are fighting with anti-Houthi forces,” he told MEE.

“This is not what we want. We need a peaceful solution and we don’t want any more casualties among Yemenis.”