Yemenis seize capital of strategic al-Jawf as Saudi-led mercenaries retreat

Yemen's armed forces, along with Houthi fighters from Ansarullah movement, have taken control of the strategic city of al-Hazm, the capital of the northern al-Jawf province, as Saudi-led mercenaries retreated after losing ground in the region.
Sources close to Saudi-allied former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, confirmed Sunday that forces led by Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement took control of al-Hazm, which is located only 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the border with Saudi Arabia.
This came after fierce fighting with Saudi-led mercenaries who were forced to withdraw to neighboring Ma’rib province.
At least 30 Saudi-led forces, including high-ranking pro-Hadi officers, were killed in the fighting over the past two days.
Maged al-Madhaji, executive director of the Sana’a Center, a Yemeni think-tank, told AFP that the Houthis' capture of al-Hazm could be a game-changer.
 "Control of the capital of al-Jawf could totally change the course of the war. Houthis have made an exceptional advance and are changing the balance" in their favor, he noted.
Madhaji also said the advance would enable the popular Ansarullah-backed forces to surround neighboring oil-rich Ma’rib province, the most significant territory in the hands of the pro-Saudi mercenaries.
The new achievement by Yemeni forces and the Houthi fighters also secures supply lines between Sana’a and the Houthi northern stronghold of Saada, Madhaji said.
The Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper had reported Saturday that the advances by Yemeni forces continued towards the strategic city and that major Saudi positions surrounding al-Hazm had fallen.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia had sent dozens of military vehicles along with hundreds of mercenaries from the central Ma'rib and southern Shabwah province in a bid to push back the Yemenis advances.
Saudi Arabia had also sought to win the loyalty of Yemeni tribes against the Yemeni forces in the region by offering money, the report added.
Due to Saudi intervention and influence, al-Jawf province was effectively deprived of using its oil reserves, which are largest in Yemen, and attracting needed investment, it added. 
Saudi Arabia and a number of its Persian Gulf regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstate the administration of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.
The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.



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