AL-MUKALLA: Almost 1,000 Houthi fighters have been killed over the past four days in fierce clashes with government forces, which include allied tribesmen, in various contested areas of the central province of Marib, with hundreds more wounded or captured, local media and government officials said on Thursday.
The Iran-backed Houthis have stepped up their attacks on Marib’s Serwah and Helan areas in an attempt to capture the oil- and gas-rich city of Marib.
“We have counted 966 Houthis, including senior officers, killed in the fighting in Marib over the last four days. Their bodies are still scattered on the battlefields,” an army officer in Marib, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News by telephone. Dozens of government troops and their tribal allies have also reportedly died in the fighting.
On Wednesday, at least 35 Houthi fighters surrendered when government forces attacked their location in Marib’s Serwah, local army commanders said. On the same day, senior army commanders in Marib attended the funeral of Brig. Mohammed Ali Alroken, the commander of 122 Infantry Brigade, who was killed in action in the northern province of Jawf.
Local army commanders say that warplanes belonging to the Arab coalition have been targeting Houthi military locations and reinforcements. On Thursday, state television showed footage of thick smoke billowing from Houthi locations in mountainous areas of Serwah.
Despite the heavy losses incurred during the Houthi offensive, Houthi official media outlets and Houthi supporters on social media claim the Iran-backed militia has made territorial gains in the province and is close to seizing control of Marib city.
The escalation in fighting comes as the United Nations Security Council and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called upon warring factions to halt all military operations in Marib in order not to jeopardize peace in a city that is currently home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have taken shelter their over the last 5 years after fleeing their homes in the north.
Many local and international aid organizations have warned that Houthi attacks on the city have created panic among residents.
In neighboring Al-Bayda, Brig. Abdulrab Al-Asbahi, the commander of Al-Bayda Axis, said on Wednesday that at least 60 Houthis had been killed in heavy fighting with government forces in the district of Qania.
The Yemeni commander said air support and logistical support from the Saudi-led coalition and local tribesmen had enabled his troops to push back Houthi offensives in the area.
Lt. Gen. Sagheer bin Aziz, the army’s chief of staff, has renewed his pledge to defeat the Houthis on the battlefield and drive them out of areas under their control, including the capital, Sanaa.
Speaking to a gathering of army soldiers in Marib on Wednesday, Bin Aziz thanked the Saudi-led coalition for its support and stressed that the army and allied tribesmen are “determined to expel the Houthis from all Yemeni areas.”