On November 20, Saudi-backed forces kicked off a military operation to expel the Houthis (Ansar Allah) from the central Yemeni province of Shabwah.
The Houthis entered the western part of the province some two months ago while conducting the first phase of Operation Spring of Victory. In October, the Yemeni group confirmed that its fighters had taken control of the districts of Usaylan, Bayhan and Ain.
The Houthis’ advance in Shabwa was only meant to support their ongoing offensive in the neighboring province of Ma’rib. The group is not currently planning to take over Shabwa.
It remains unclear if the Saudi-led coalition will support its proxies’ new operation in Shabwah. As for now, no airstrikes have targeted Houthi forces in the province.
The first target of Saudi-backed forces will reportedly be Bayhan, which is located to the south of Usaylan and to the east of Ain.
The operation is clearly meant to mount more pressure on the Houthis in order to force them to halt their offensive in Ma’rib. In the last few weeks, the Houthis made significant gains to the south of Ma’rib city. Their forces are currently situated less than 40 kilometers away from the city.
Earlier this month, the Saudi-led coalition withdrew its proxies from the western province of al-Hudaydah in a bid to reinforce Ma’rib city.