RIYADH: A ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Saturday killed at least 17 people in a government-held city, including a 5-year-old girl.
The missile hit a gas station in the Rawdha neighborhood in the central city of Marib, according to Ali Al-Ghulisi, the provincial governor’s press secretary.
Shortly after the missile attack the Iran-backed militia also launched an explosive-laden drone which destroyed two ambulances that had rushed to the area to transfer the injured to hospitals.
Dozens of people were wounded in the attack, he added. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.
“The Houthi militias targeted the petrol station where dozens of cars were waiting to fill up, sparking a huge fire in which 14 civilians perished, including a little girl,” the Saba news agency said in an initial announcement. Other agencies later raised the death toll to 17.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia launched an offensive to capture oil and gas-rich Marib from the internationally recognized government in Yemen in February.
The offensive sparked regional and international condemnation, especially since Marib has served as a safe haven for thousands of internally displaced persons who have been fleeing the fighting since the start of the conflict in 2014.
Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani strongly condemned the attack targeting the gas station, and the attack that followed a few minutes later targeting two ambulances that rushed to rescue the victims with a booby-trapped drone.
“The heinous terrorist crime is an extension of the continuous and deliberate targeting of residential neighborhoods and civilian objects in the city of Marib by the Houthi militia, with the aim of inflicting the largest number of civilians, after the failure of its military escalation, its attempts to undermine the city’s steadfastness, and the daily depletion of its elements and equipment on the various fronts of the province,” he said in a statement.
He called on the international community, and the UN and US envoys, to speak out and condemn the attack, which he said “amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
He called for re-listing the Houthi militia on the international terrorist lists, and to prosecute its leaders as war criminals.
The attack came just a day after US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking accused the Houthis of failing to try to reach an urgently needed ceasefire.
He said they bore the major responsibility for refusing to engage meaningfully and to take steps to “resolve a nearly seven-year conflict that has brought unimaginable suffering to the Yemeni people.”
Lenderking’s remarks followed his return from a diplomatic mission on Yemen that took him to Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Jordan.
He also criticized the Houthis’ renewed offensive on the oil-rich Marib province, an anti-Houthi stronghold held by the internationally recognized government that is crucial to Yemen’s energy supplies.
The Marib attack, which began in February amid an international and regional diplomatic push to end the conflict, has left the Houthis “increasingly isolated,” Lenderking said.
The State Department said Lenderking coordinated his efforts closely with the UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, who held video talks last week with Houthi leader Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi.
Griffiths expressed frustration that his efforts to achieve a ceasefire had been derailed. He urged the sides to seize the “considerable regional and international support” for the UN peace plan.
Lenderking’s rebuke to the Houthis came as the UN Security Council criticized the militia for delaying a technical assessment of an oil storage vessel moored in the Red Sea off the Yemeni coast loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil.
Meanwhile, a delegation from Oman arrived in Sanaa for talks with rebel leaders that aim to advance the peace process.
The delegation arrived on an Omani military plane and would try to convince Houthi leaders to halt their offensive on Marib and return to the negotiating table in Muscat, an Omani official said.
(With AFP and AP)