DUBAI (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen killed dozens of Houthi fighters and cut one of their main supply routes on Wednesday, United Arab Emirates state news agency WAM reported.
The offensive, northwest of Yemen’s third largest city of Taiz, could be a major advance for the Western-backed coalition forces in nearly three years of civil war.
It would consolidate gains made last month at al-Khoukha on the Red Sea where pro-government forces, energized since the death of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December after he ditched his alliance with the Iran-aligned Houthis, made their biggest advance in months.
The Houthis, who swept across Yemen since 2014 overthrowing the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2015, hold the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, where most of the country’s 25 million people live.
The conflict - widely seen as a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran - has displaced more than 2 million people, caused a cholera epidemic and pushed the country to the brink of famine. At least 10,000 people have been killed.
WAM said local Yemeni fighters, backed by UAE troops, raided Houthi strongholds between al-Khoukha and the town of Heys, about 25 km (15 miles) to the east to try to secure Red Sea areas captured last month.
“Emirati armed forces members and Yemeni resistance fighters managed to cut supply lines for the Houthi coup militias between Hodeidah and Taiz south of Heys city,” WAM said, citing an Emirati army source.
It said that dozens of Houthi fighters were killed.
Residents said that Houthi forces, who control most of Taiz province and surround pro-government forces inside the provincial capital, continue to receive supplies through the adjacent Ibb province.
A spokesman for the Houthi-controlled Yemeni army could not be reached for a comment and the group’s media outlets made no mention of any fighting in the area.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy