ALEXANDRIA: Yemen government troops and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition jets, on Sunday pushed back the “biggest and most fierce” Houthi assault in the central province of Marib since February, local army officials and state media said.
Exploiting a brief absence of coalition air power due to cloudy skies, Houthis on Saturday night heavily shelled government troops in Al-Kasara and Al-Mashjah, west of the government-controlled Marib city, to pave the way for ground forces to mount heavy assaults.
Local army officials described the Houthi attacks as the most aggressive since February and another desperate attempt by the militia to break the government’s strong defense of Marib city.
“The enemy could not advance and has lost many of its fighters and locations in Al-Kasara,” Col. Yahiya Al-Hatemi, director of the Yemen Army’s military media, told Arab News on Sunday, adding that at least three Houthi military leaders were among dozens of rebels who were killed in the latest foiled offensive.
Despite the cloudy weather, aircraft from the Arab coalition carried out intense bombing, destroying a Houthi command room for drones in Marib’s Serwah district and killing a number of rebels, Al-Hatemi said.
More than 200 Houthis have been killed in heavy clashes with government troops or in Arab coalition strikes during recent days and the Yemeni army troops and the tribesmen are determined to foil their attacks on Marib, a Yemeni army commander said.
According to the defense ministry news site, Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba, commander of the 3rd Military Region, which includes Marib and Al-Bayda, said on Sunday that government troops have inflicted heavy defeats on the Houthis, foiled dozens of attacks in the provinces of Al-Bayda and Marib, as well as killed 200 fighters and wounded hundreds more.
“The army and resistance fighters valiantly confront the militia’s attacks on various fronts. They have the will and determination that enable them to curb all the militia’s attempts to achieve gains on the ground,” Thawaba said.
Thousands of combatants have been killed in fierce clashes in the central province of Marib since February when Houthis renewed an offensive to seize control of the strategic city.
If the Houthis were able to control Marib, they would take full control of the northern half of Yemen,and seize control of oil and gas fields along with a major power station, experts warn.
Despite local and international pleas against the grave consequences of an offensive on hundreds of thousands of civilians who live in the city, the Houthis have escalated their drone and missile strikes on residential areas of Marib as their ground forces push to make big advances.
As the group’s forces were attacking government troops outside Marib, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, president of the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said on Twitter on Saturday that they were “closing in on” achieving victory in Marib.
But Yemeni government supporters on social media mocked the leader’s claims.
“Marib has devoured your militias as fire devours wood. They go to Marib in droves and return as pictures on coffins,” Mubarak Al-Haidari, a journalist, said.