The Saudi-backed forces fighting on behalf of exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi yesterday carried out a counter-offensive in the northern Al-Jawf province in an attempt to reverse recent gains made by the joint-forces of the Yemeni army and the Houthi movement.
Supported by Saudi air-power, Hadi's troops have reportedly retaken the Khub and Sha'af districts and, in the process, opened a road linking the areas with the Islah-stronghold province of Marib.
Last week saw Houthi forces seize key areas of the province, including its capital, Al-Hazm city, ending five years under the control of Hadi's fighters. The province is said to be oil-rich and shares a border with Saudi Arabia. It is expected that the Houthi-Army forces will attempt to continue their advances onto neighbouring Marib which would effectively end Hadi's – and therefore Saudi's -efforts on the ground.
Hadi's forces managed to regain control of most of the territory they lost during the past 24 hours In #YATAMAH front, northeast of #Jawf governorate.#Houthis still controlling most of the ASALILAH Mountains and ALMAHASHIMAUH market#Ali_Alnasi pic.twitter.com/QvA0IYaY6O
— علي النسي (@aalnaasi) March 9, 2020
AP reported that the battles over the last two days have claimed the lives of at least 35 fighters from both sides and wounded dozens of others. Houthi sources claimed the Saudi-led coalition carried out at least 18 airstrikes on the recently captured areas in a bid to help the counter-offensive.
A recent report by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington partially credited the recent military successes of the Houthis to their takeover of Nihm district in Sanaa province, which offered them control over a chain of mountains overlooking Al-Jawf and Marib in addition to the tribal nature of the areas recently captured by the Houthis and the internal divisions among some of the military units operating under Hadi's command.
On Saturday, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths called for an "immediate and unconditional" freeze on military activities during his first visit to Marib city since the fall of Al-Hazm to the Houthis.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the fighting in Al-Jawf has displaced around 70,000 people to neighbouring Marib.