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Yemen rebels control the strategic conservative capital

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Yemeni rebels took control of the strategic capital of Al-Jawf governorate north of Sanaa on Sunday, according to military officials loyal to the internationally recognized government, in a move analysts said could help the Houthis achieve a major breakthrough in the conflict.

A military official from the pro-government forces confirmed to AFP that the rebels took control of Al-Hazm, the capital of Al-Jawf governorate.

The rebels were already controlling large parts of Al-Jawf governorate, but its capital, about 150 km south of the border with Saudi Arabia, was still under the control of government forces.

The military official said that the rebels “took control of the city of Al-Hazm (…) after confrontations with government forces, which had to withdraw to the neighboring province of Marib.”

According to the official, “most areas of Al-Jawf are in the hands of the Houthis” now.

Since 2014, Yemen has witnessed a war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, and battles intensified in March 2015, with Saudi Arabia intervening at the head of a military alliance in support of government forces.

Military sources said that more than thirty officers of the government forces were killed in the past two days in the battlefield, while dozens of Houthi fighters were killed and others were wounded in the fighting.

For his part, the leader of the rebel political wing, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi, wrote in a tweet on Twitter, “We congratulate the armed forces (…) on their victories. We also congratulate the steadfast Yemeni people in defeating the invaders and their mercenaries from Al-Jouf.”

Majed Al-Madhhaji, executive director of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, said that the rebels ’control of the capital of Al-Jouf“ may completely change the course of the war, ”as it puts the neighboring and oil-rich Marib governorate within their range.

He explained that “the Houthis are now changing the balance of power and making exceptional progress,” noting that controlling the capital of Al-Jouf allows the rebels to surround Marib.

He added, “The Houthis currently overlook Marib from three sides (…) and therefore their path may begin to cordon off the Marib Governorate after a period if the legitimate (government) cannot respond to the attack.”

According to Al-Madhhaji, controlling Al-Jouf “means securing (the Houthis) themselves from any infiltration” from the north.

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands, including a large number of civilians, according to humanitarian organizations.

Last February, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that 19 children and 12 other civilians were killed during an air strike in a rebel-held area in Jouf, most likely by Saudi-led coalition aircraft.

The raids occurred the day after the crash of a coalition fighter plane in a nearby area in Al-Jawf.

In addition to the victims of the Yemeni conflict, there are still 3.3 million displaced people, while 24.1 million people, or more than two-thirds of the population, need help, according to the United Nations, which describes the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the worst in the world today.

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