SANAA (Reuters) - Houthi forces and their army allies in Yemen seized the capital of a large desert province on the border with Saudi Arabia on Sunday, residents said, an important victory for the group ahead of peace talks in Geneva on Monday.
The Houthis, the dominant faction in Yemen’s civil war, took control of al-Hazm, capital of the province of al-Jawf, amid Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Houthi positions and heavy fighting with armed tribesmen.
“The Houthi forces and those loyal to the former president spread out in the city and around government buildings,” a tribal source in al-Hazm told Reuters by phone.
A Saudi-led military alliance has been carrying out air raids in Yemen for almost three months to try to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and repel the Houthis, whom they regard as proxies for their regional archrival Iran.
Since forming an alliance with Yemen’s still powerful former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his loyalists in the army, the Houthis have taken over the capital Sanaa and swooped into several central provinces.
But their push on the country’s southernmost city and major port, Aden, triggered the regional Arab intervention on March 26, and the air campaign has brought about a virtual stalemate in ground fighting nationwide.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Mark Heinrich