AL-MUKALLA: Fierce fighting broke out on Friday on the outskirts of Yemen’s central city of Marib after the Iran-backed Houthis mounted a new attack on government forces defending the strategic location.
The Yemeni Defense Ministry said that army troops and allied tribesmen were fending off a major Houthi assault at flashpoint sites in Juba district, south of Marib.
The attack has been described as the biggest since April 2, the first day of a two-month truce brokered by the UN.
The UN meanwhile urged Yemen’s warring parties to exercise “restraint” after they traded accusations of violations of the cease-fire.
“I am following very closely the latest developments in #Marib and urge all parties to show restraint and their continued commitment to the truce as promised to Yemenis,” tweeted Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen.
Yemen’s government has accused the Houthis of exploiting the ceasefire and absence of Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen warplanes by mobilizing new forces and military equipment including tanks, artillery, and BMP infantry fighting vehicles.
The army said that the Houthis had committed at least 100 violations of the truce in contested areas in Hodeidah, Jouf, Taiz, Saada, Hajjah, and Marib. The Houthis accused the Yemeni government of attacking their forces in Marib on Friday.
Energy-rich Marib has seen the bloodiest and most aggressive fighting in the war since earlier last year when the Houthis resumed an offensive to control the city.
Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed outside the city and the group rejected calls to end its attacks that have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.
Under the terms of the longest truce since the beginning of the conflict, warring factions in Yemen were to halt hostilities on all fronts in addition to stopping cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Sanaa airport would open for two flights to Egypt and Jordan each week, and 18 fuel ships would be allowed to enter the western port of Hodeidah.
Yemen’s former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Thursday transferred his powers to a presidential council of eight members to run the country and engage in peace talks with the Houthis.
Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, on Thursday rejected the formation of the presidential council and the outcomes of Yemeni-Yemeni consultations in Riyadh, claiming the council was meant to reorganize the ranks of their opponents before pushing them into the battlefields to fight them.
– with AFP