Yemeni forces fight back after Houthis seize al-Hazm

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Displaced Yemeni children, who fled the northern al-Jawf province due to fighting between the Houthis and Yemeni forces, fill water containers at a camp in the desert which lies some 80 kilometres from Marib province, on October 21st, 2015. [Abdullah al-Qadry/AFP]

Yemeni forces, backed by the Arab coalition, have been clashing with the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) in the vicinity of the al-Jawf provincial capital of al-Hazm since the Houthis seized control of the city on Sunday (March 1st).

As al-Hazm residents fled towards Marib to escape the fighting, Yemen's Ministry of Defence sent military reinforcements from Marib to al-Jawf in an attempt to recapture al-Hazm.

The Houthis gained control of al-Hazm following violent confrontations with the Yemeni forces which saw heavy casualties on both sides.

According to military sources, at least 30 members of the Yemeni forces, including high-ranking officers, were killed in fighting over the weekend, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, Arab coalition warplanes targeted Houthi gatherings, al-Jawf provincial government building and the political security building, after the Houthis seized these facilities.

The Houthis blew up the province's Holy Qur'an House, and the house of an army battalion commander as they stormed al-Hazm, which Arab coalition forces had liberated in 2015 from the Houthis.

The Houthis had seized al-Hazm in their 2014 coup.

Fighting still under way

Yemeni forces have fought bravely on al-Jawf front, Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani said in a report carried by local media, praising the supporting role played by local tribesmen.

"Al-Jawf will not fall to Iran's mercenaries, and will always resist their dreams of undermining the security and stability of liberated provinces and threatening the security of neighbouring countries," he said.

"Al-Jawf will always be a launchpad for recapturing Sanaa and other provinces controlled by the Houthis," he added.

Sporadic battles are under way in the vicinity of al-Hazm, said Maj. Gen. Muhsen Khasrouf, former director of the Ministry of Defence's Morale Guidance Department.

He said he has heard that military reinforcements are being sent from Marib.

"The National Army is fighting Houthis under the command of al-Jawf governor Maj. Gen. Amin al-Akimi, who is still leading fighters to recapture the province although he lost a son a few days ago in clashes with Houthis," he said.

Al-Akimi reportedly lost a second son in al-Hazm clashes on Sunday, Khasrouf said.

Wave of displacement

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq that the Houthis' recapture of al-Hazm increases the likelihood of attacks on Yemeni forces in Marib and on Saudi territory, as al-Jawf borders the kingdom.

He said that part of the problem is a lack of co-ordination among the various components of the pro-government forces, some of which are acting unilaterally in certain circumstances.

"The National Army usually operates on a certain front and stops operations on other fronts" in order to focus on the battle at hand, he said, "and this has given the Houthis a chance to mobilise fighters from other fronts to al-Jawf".

The storming of al-Hazm sparked a major wave of displacement towards Marib province, with vehicles carrying displaced residents travelling along rough terrain and desert pathways to avoid Houthi bombardment on the main road.

Deputy Marib governor Abd Rabbu Meftah said local authorities in the province have taken appropriate measures to receive displaced al-Jawf residents and provide places where they can take shelter, local media reported.

An emergency operations room has been formed "to co-ordinate humanitarian intervention and relief efforts, provide food and water and secure the different services which international and regional organisations will offer", Meftah said.

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May God's peace be upon the Huthi brothers. May the greetings of God, and the one of the Household [of the Prophet] be upon the impoverished, who have rubbed the nose of [Saudi] Arabia and King Salman in the dirt. May God's curse be upon the Wahhabism,