Yemeni government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, reclaimed large swathes of territory in central Bayda province, according to Moammar Al Iryani, Yemen’s information minister.
Houthi officials said the rebels suffered heavy losses in the fighting that raged over the weekend and sent reinforcements to the province to repel government attacks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media.
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis swept across much of the north and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the following year on the side of the government.
Amer Al Homaiqani, a spokesman for tribesmen fighting alongside government forces, said they took control of the district of Zahir and progressed westward to the provincial capital of Bayda.
He posted videos on social media purportedly showing armoured vehicles and other military equipment he says were taken from Houthis who fled their fortified positions.
The media centre of Yemen’s army said they also retook several villages in Bayda’s eastern district of Sawmaa.
Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said a military operation began to “liberate” Bayda from the Iran-backed Houthis.
Fighting in Bayda came as the Houthis attempt to break through government defences in the strategic city of Marib. The rebels have been attempting since February to capture it from the internationally recognised government, which would complete their control over the northern part of Yemen.
However, they have not made substantial progress and have suffered heavy losses amid stiff resistance from government forces aided by the Saudi-led coalition supporting them.
Separately, in the southern province of Abyan, an explosion killed three people and wounded 22 others in a military camp on Sunday, according to Defence Minister Mohammed Al Maqdishi.
It was not clear what caused the blast, but Mr Al Maqdishi accused the Houthis of firing a missile that hit a mosque at the camp. The rebels did not claim the attack.
The conflict in Yemen has killed more than 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.