Yemen government says southern province retaken from rebels

Forces of the internationally recognized government have recaptured the entire southern Shabwa province from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Yemeni officials say

CAIRO – Yemen’s internationally recognized government forces have retaken the entire southern Shabwa province from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, officials said on Tuesday. The development has dealt a blow to the rebels after government forces made significant inroads in the south of the country earlier this month.

The government, aided by airstrikes by allies of pro-government militias, the Giant Brigade and the Saudi-led coalition, pushed Chabwa this month to retake the entire province in a 10-day battle, officials said.

Military spokesman Mohammad Naqib said they had achieved “all their goals” and drove the Houthis out of Al Ain, Usiran and Baihan areas.

The Houthis had no immediate comment, but two rebel leaders acknowledged to The Associated Press that they had lost control of Shabwa. The insurgents fled to the nearby central provinces of Beda and Malibu because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The capture of Shabwa will allow government forces to cut off a key supply line for the Houthis, which have been attacking the key city of Marib, the last government stronghold in northern Yemen, since early last year. The rebels have repeatedly opposed U.N. and U.S. diplomatic efforts to halt the Malibu offensive, as well as insurgent missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

A UN-led negotiating effort has failed to make significant progress in Yemen’s years-long conflict. The civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south and then into exile in Saudi Arabia. The then-US-backed Saudi-led coalition entered the war months later in an attempt to restore power to the government.

The conflict has since become a regional proxy war, killing tens of thousands of civilians and fighters. The war has also created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.