AL-MUKALLA: Military officials and residents in Yemen’s city of Taiz are bracing themselves for intensified attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis after the militia group mobilized new fighters, heavy artillery, and military vehicles outside the city.
Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military officer in Taiz, told Arab News on Monday that the Houthis had deployed extra forces and equipment on all fronts outside the strategic city and that intelligence reports suggested they were preparing to launch more aggressive attacks and shelling on the city and military locations controlled by government troops.
He said: “They have brought in big military reinforcements to Taiz, including fighters, military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns, and sniper rifles with night vision sight.”
Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, has been under a choking siege since early 2015 after the Houthis blocked its main entrances, barring people from leaving or entering the city and preventing vital humanitarian assistance from reaching thousands of needy inhabitants.
Under a UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2, the Houthis were supposed to partially ease the siege by opening a main road and several small secondary roads after the Yemeni government facilitated the departure of commercial flights from Sanaa airport and allowed fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports.
UN-sponsored discussions on opening roads in Taiz reached a stalemate as the Houthis refused to cooperate and insisted on opening only small and unpaved roads leading into and out Taiz.
Al-Baher noted that seven civilians and 13 soldiers had been killed and at least 100 civilians wounded since April 2 as the Houthis broke the terms of the truce on 2,849 occasions through missile and drone attacks and the deployment of forces.
“Our information says that the militia is planning attacks during Eid days (next week),” he added.
On Monday morning, explosions rocked the western and northern outskirts of Taiz after Yemeni government troops pushed back a Houthi assault and responded to shelling on their positions in Madrat and near an air-defense military base.
During the early hours, the Houthis used tanks and artillery fire to bombard an air-defense base in northwest Taiz before sending in ground troops to seize control of new areas.
Al-Baher said that government troops fired back at the Houthi positions and forced the ground troops to retreat.
Separately, during a meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, Othman Mujalli, a member of the Presidential Leadership Council, told the US envoy to Yemen, Steven Fagin, that the Houthis had been responsible for stoking up the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, displacing thousands of Yemenis, and recruiting and indoctrinating the country’s juveniles.
And he signaled the use of military operations to defeat the Houthis if they did not cooperate with peace efforts to end the war.
“Defeating the Houthi militarily is possible. Today the international community wants peace, and we want peace, but the militias refused to open a road that has existed for 40 years in Taiz,” Mujalli said, according to the official news agency SABA.