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Yemeni Official: Battle for Capital Imminent

Shi'ite fighters known as Houthis stand on the rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin insisted during a visit to Cairo Friday that the “liberation” of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, from Houthi rebels will begin within the next two months.

Yassin's visit to the Egyptian capital came amid heavy fighting between militiamen loyal to his internationally recognized government and Houthi rebel fighters around Yemen's third largest city of Taez. Witnesses said Houthi forces and soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh pounded parts of the city with rockets and field artillery.

Yassin told journalists that he thinks Houthi fighters and their allies are fighting bitterly to hold onto Taez because they realize after the fall of the city the battle to liberate Sana'a will commence.

He went on to argue that he has seen indications that residents in parts of Sana'a are committing acts of resistance against the Houthis. In a separate interview, he told Reuters that the battle for Sana'a will begin in eight weeks.

Map of Yemen showing territorial control and locations targeted by the Saudi-led air strikes.
Map of Yemen showing territorial control and locations targeted by the Saudi-led air strikes.

Amateur video showed Saudi-led coalition forces firing automatic weapons at Houthi positions in their stronghold of Saada province in northern Yemen. Arab media reported that Saudi-led forces landed troops in the mountainous border area of Saada, but it was not clear how far those forces were able to advance inside Saada.

The Houthis' Al Masira TV, however, broadcast video which claimed to show the destruction of a Saudi military command post with a missile. The TV channel alleged that the post was inside Saudi territory in a region called Khouba. VOA could not independently confirm the claim.

Saudi media reinforced the claim the coalition was advancing against the Houthis, showing video of a column of armored vehicles purportedly in the province of Maarib, to the east of Sana'a.

United Arab Emirates-based analyst Theodore Karasik told VOA that "there are indications that the Saudi-led coalition is starting to insert ground forces in northern Yemen to take Sana'a."

He stressed that "small teams are likely to repeat the methods they used (to capture) Aden by aligning with (local) forces which oppose the Houthis."

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