SANAA: Pro-government forces have retaken the last military base in the country’s south that was held by Shiite rebels known as Houthis, Saudi-backed Yemeni officials said Friday.
The capture of Labouza base is the latest victory for the pro-government forces that have been pushing north in the province of Lahj, after routing the rebels from the coastal city of Aden recently.
Labouza lies north of the strategic al-Anad base, which fell to Yemeni troops on Monday. The officials gave no casualty figures for the latest fighting.
The previous rounds of fighting in Lahj have left areas in the province with dozens of decomposing rebel bodies littering the streets, said Lahj resident Ahmed Naguib.
The gains by the pro-government forces have been made possible with the help of a Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition that has been targeting the Houthis and their allies since March in an airstrikes campaign.
In the country’s east, hundreds of Saudi-trained Yemeni troops were marching toward the central oil-rich province of Marib, where Houthis maintain a strong presence, Yemeni army spokesman Ali al-Bakali said.
The Yemeni troops were trained in a military camp in the neighboring Saudi town of al-Sharurah.
Meanwhile, in Aden, humanitarian aid has flooded local markets, officials said, with one blaming the “aid leak” on the embattled government’s mismanagement and corruption.
“They are selling oil and flour that has a ‘not for sale’ on it in the street,” said Shahir al-Araj, a resident of Aden’s most populous neighborhood, al-Shiekh Othman.
The Houthi’s media center said Friday a delegation of rebel leaders left the rebel-held capital of Sanaa in the morning to Oman, where negotiations have been attempted in the past.
The purpose of the visit, Houthi officials said, is to discuss the possibility of ending the war and returning to the negotiating table with the exiled Yemeni government.
The Houthis and members of the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh party will meet with U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Oman, officials from the exiled Riyadh-based Yemeni presidential office said. Houthi rebel officials and Saleh’s party confirmed the program.
The U.N. envoy will then travel to Saudi Arabia before heading to New York to discuss the developments and efforts to end the conflict.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.