Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi sit on the back of armed pick up trucks in al-Waziyah district in the Taez governorate, on November 19, 2015 (Photo: AFP)
Iran-backed rebels in Yemen have blown up several bridges in the mountainous southwestern Taez province to hamper the advance of pro-government forces, military sources said Tuesday.
Government forces backed by air and ground support from a Saudi-led coalition launched an all-out offensive last week to push the rebels out of Taez and break the siege of loyalists in its provincial capital.
Taez is seen as crucial for the recapture of other central provinces and for opening the way to the rebel-controlled capital Sanaa farther north.
It is also important for securing the south, where loyalists have retaken five provinces since July, including Aden, seat of the provisional government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Shiite Huthi rebels on Monday "blew up several bridges leading to Rahida to prevent the advance" of loyalist forces, said one of the sources in a reference to the province's second-largest city.
Military officials said this week that landmines planted by the rebels have already been hampering the progress of government forces and had caused casualties.
Loyalist forces are now stationed 12 kilometres (seven miles) away from Rahida after they regained several positions in clashes that lasted until early Tuesday and left five rebels and two pro-government fighters dead, according to the military sources.
In the neighbouring Lahj province, farther south, Hadi visited Al-Anad airbase, where Yemeni and coalition commanders are deployed to supervise the Taez offensive, a presidency source said.
"The visit is to oversee the military preparations to liberate Taez," the source told AFP.
Hadi returned from exile in Saudi Arabia on November 18, two days after the offensive to retake Taez began.
The United Nations says more than 5,700 people have been killed since the Saudi-led intervention began in March, nearly half of them civilians.