Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The liberation of Taiz

The city of Taiz, long occupied by Houthi rebel forces, was liberated by Yemeni government forces this week, writes Ahmed Eleiba

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The past week has seen heavy fighting in the city of Taiz, Yemen’s cultural capital, with military sources now claiming that nearly 80 per cent of the besieged city has been liberated from occupying rebel Houthi and Saleh forces.

Aid from the King Salman Centre has begun to enter the city, which saw a grave deterioration in humanitarian conditions during the occupation and siege. The city’s infrastructure has also been destroyed.

“There will soon be no Houthi militias in the city of Taiz,” said Ahmed Asiri, a military advisor to the Saudi defence minister and spokesman for the coalition forces in Yemen, this week.

The liberation began with a coordinated offensive on the southern and southwestern fronts, while maintaining control of the road linking Taiz to Sanaa in the north, Aden in the south, and the Red Sea port of Mocha to the west.

This provided the opportunity for an estimated 6,000 government troops to enter the city and secure areas coming under their control. The troops immediately began dealing with the mines planted by the rebel forces in all the newly liberated areas.

According to official statements, 17 members of the rebel militias were killed in mid-week clashes in the eastern and northern zones where some of the rebels are still holding out, while 10 members of the government forces were killed at the airport, in the city’s industrial zone, and at a special forces camp.

In his first official appearance, Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, deputy commander of Yemen’s armed forces, announced that army forces had taken over the positions liberated from the Houthis, along with formerly occupied government facilities and buildings.

The governor of Taiz, Ali Al-Maamari, said that the forces had taken possession of the headquarters of the 35th Brigade. He added that elements of these to whom conscription laws applied would be integrated into the army as a priority.

Abdel-Aziz Al-Majidi, a founder of the Rafd Movement, told Al-Ahram Weekly from Taiz that other positions in the city were expected to be liberated within the coming days, as militias were being forced to withdraw from their positions. “Taiz is the first domino on the way to Sanaa,” he added.

Plans will be drawn up to reconstruct the city, he said, adding that the army is making intensive efforts to secure the area, though representatives of the government of Khaled Bahah and Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi are still absent from the scene.

According to official statements, rebel forces destroyed 38 hospitals in the Taiz region, with only three remaining open and operating on a partial basis; 152 schools were destroyed, and their 200,000 students have missed much of the current academic year. Taiz University, with a student body of 30,000, has also been closed as it was surrounded by Houthi military barracks. A further 81 service facilities and 1,668 homes were also destroyed.

According to Minister of Local Government Abdel-Raqib Seif, these facilities and others like them constituted nearly 70 per cent of the infrastructure in the city, most of which was utterly destroyed by the militias.

Since the beginning of the war, Taiz has seen the most civilian deaths and injuries of all Yemen’s provinces, according to recent estimates.

Al-Majidi said that members of the Houthi Movement had earlier provided Saudi Arabia with maps of mine positions in regions bordering the country. A team of what are thought to be Iranian advisors is now working with the Houthis to remove the mines as a condition of the political settlement.

Taiz has not seen similar steps, meaning that mines will pose a significant obstacle to swift reconstruction if the rebel forces do not pursue the same policy in Taiz that they have followed in Sanaa.

 

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