AL-MUKALLA: The Arab coalition has sent armored vehicles, heavy weapons, machine guns and ammunition to Marib as Yemen’s army deployed a new brigade to help government troops repel the Houthi offensive on the city and regain the upper hand on the battlefields.
“The new brigade and the military equipment will definitely shore up government troops and help them to push back the attacks,” local officials said.
The Yemeni government has announced deploying hundreds of troops to the city as the Houthis intensify their attacks.
At least 150 Houthis are said to have been killed in heavy fighting during the past 24 hours in flashpoints south of Marib such as Juba and Dhana.
Backed by air support from Arab coalition warplanes, government troops on Wednesday night launched counterattacks to ease the Houthi military pressure and recapture strategic areas that fell to the militia during the past couple of months.
Officials said army troops and allied tribes made limited advances in the areas after killing and wounding dozens of the Houthis.
In the west, the Houthis on Wednesday evening mounted an attack on government troops in the mountainous Al-Kasara, in another desperate attempt to advance toward Marib.
The Houthis were forced to stop the attacks after suffering heavy losses and failing to break through the loyalists’ strong lines of defense.
Local media reports said that a Houthi military leader called Abu Ahmed Al-Shajari was killed.
Thousands of Houthi fighters, including dozens of senior field commanders, have been killed in Marib province during fighting with government troops or by the Arab coalition warplanes since February when they resumed an offensive to control the city.
Human Rights Watch has accused the Houthis of arbitrarily targeting civilian gatherings in Marib province and forcing thousands of people to decamp to safer areas.
“Civilians and displaced people in Marib have been caught in the crosshairs for nearly two years, some suffering severe deprivation,” said Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.
“The Houthis’ repeated indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and their blocking of humanitarian aid have become a shameful pattern and add to the group’s dismal human rights record.”
The international group said that the Houthis besieged more than 35,000 people in Al-Abedia district in Marib in October, barring them from moving around or getting access to humanitarian assistance.
October witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties in Marib for a long time as Houthi missiles and explosive-rigged drones killed or wounded more than 100 civilians.
The International Organization for Migration warned that thousands of people might be forced to flee their homes again if the fighting between government troops and the Houthis reached the city of Marib. It said more than 15,000 people have left fighting-torn areas in the province to safer places in the city this month.
The IOM “is extremely concerned about the prospect that hundreds of thousands of people might be forced to move again if violence reaches the city, bringing rising civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure,” said IOM Yemen’s Chief of Mission, Christa Rottensteiner.
“We join the humanitarian community in calling for an end to hostilities, respect for international humanitarian law and also for urgent resources to scale up the response,” she said.