AL-MUKALLA: At least 140 Iran-backed Houthi fighters were on Thursday killed in fierce clashes with Yemeni government troops in the central province of Marib, military officials told Arab News.
The casualties came on the fifth consecutive day of heavy fighting as the group intensified its attacks on government positions in an attempt to break through defenses and capture the city of Marib.
Backed by Arab coalition warplanes, Yemeni army officials said government forces had succeeded in fending off the latest assaults.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has pledged to challenge Iran’s bid to spread its revolutionary beliefs and undermine the security of Yemen.
The current escalation started on Saturday with the Houthis’ push toward Marib. Non-stop fighting over the past 24 hours, coupled with more than 41 sorties by coalition jets targeting dozens of enemy reinforcements and equipment, had resulted in major losses for the militant group.
Yahiya Al-Hatemi, director of the Yemeni army’s military media, told Arab News: “These are the most aggressive battles during the last five years. The Yemeni army has pushed back all of the attacks.”
He said that on Wednesday the coalition’s warplanes destroyed six vehicles carrying dozens of Houthis. “If we counted the Houthis who were killed in the airstrikes, the number would be more than 140.”
Pro-government accounts on Twitter posted graphic images of dozens of dead Houthis lying in mountain battlefields in the Helan, Al-Mashjah, Rahabah, and Al-Kasara areas of Marib province. Many more were believed to have been wounded.
Despite suffering heavy casualties, the Houthis have been trying since February to seize control of oil-rich Marib city, the government’s last major bastion in the north of the country.
Local and international aid organizations have repeatedly warned that the groups’ assaults on Marib would put tens of thousands of internally displaced people at grave risk and could cause a wave of displacement.
Due to the peace and stability that the city has enjoyed since the beginning of the war in Yemen, more than 1 million people who had fled the fighting and Houthi repression in their home provinces have taken shelter there.
On Thursday, a government body that runs displacement camps throughout Yemen said that many families had been forced to flee villages in Rahabah due to indiscriminate shelling by the Houthis.
Hadi on Wednesday accused the Iranian regime of employing the Houthis, “as tools to destabilize the security and stability of Yemen and the region and to impose the Iranian experiment.”
Since taking power in early 2012, Hadi has criticized Tehran for intervening in Yemeni affairs by supplying the Houthis with advanced weapons, military know-how, and funds.