AL-MUKALLA: A Yemeni army commander was among at least 100 combatants killed in the past 24 hours outside the central city of Marib, as Arab coalition warplanes intensified air raids on Houthi targets, officials said.
Gen. Nasser Al-Thaybani died while commanding government troops who were fighting off Houthi incursions into the strategic Al-Balaq mountain range that overlooks part of the city.
“The hero Gen. Nasser Al-Thaybani was martyred early on Monday after a bullet from a Houthi sniper hit his head,” Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News.
He said the commander was leading forces that pushed the Houthis back from the eastern parts of the mountain.
At least 100 Houthis were killed in Marib province after troops mounted a counteroffensive on the militia, who made a rare incursion into Al-Balaq after heavily shelling loyalist locations at the weekend.
Troops expelled the Houthis from Al-Balaq and were currently battling them in desert areas south of Marib, Al-Mekhlafi said. He added that the Houthi had mobilized elite forces to seize control of Al-Balaq.
“The Houthi seizure of even a small part of Al-Balaq would pose a serious threat to Marib.”
The militia began attacking Marib city in February in a bid to fully control the northern half of Yemen, including the city’s oil and gas fields and a major power station.
Despite losing thousands of fighters in battle or through coalition airstrikes, the Houthis have stepped up their ground, missile and drone attacks on the city.
Yemeni commanders said the Houthis were applying a human wave attack, a military tactic in which hundreds of their fighters assault troops who are defending the city.
The escalation of fighting in Marib came as UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg on Monday announced his visit to Muscat, where he discussed UN-brokered peace efforts to end the war with Omani officials and Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Sallam.
“He discussed ways to de-escalate the violence in #Yemen & begin a political dialogue aimed at reaching a comprehensive &inclusive settlement,” the envoy’s office tweeted.
Grundberg is expected to brief the UN Security Council on Tuesday on the outcomes of his meetings with the main Yemeni stakeholders inside and outside the country and regional and international officials.