AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis fired two ballistic missiles at Yemen’s central city of Marib on Tuesday, as they mobilized a large number of fighters and military equipment outside the city, local government officials said.
Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official with Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News by telephone that two missiles landed between Tadaween and Al-Shabwani, north of Marib, in close proximity to a military base and a refugee camp for internally displaced people. “The missiles exploded in an open area in Marib without causing any injuries,” Al-Mekhlafi said.
The missile attack comes as three government officials told Arab News that the Houthis were amassing massive military equipment reserves and combatants outside Marib in preparation for an offensive on the energy-rich city. The attack had been halted by a UN-brokered truce that went into effect in April last year.
“They have assembled fighters and enormous military equipment, including armored vehicles, cannons, and drone launchers, on the southern, western, northern, and east-northern surrounds of Marib,” Al-Mekhlafi said. Two more government sources told Arab News about the Houthi military gatherings outside Marib.
To counter the impending attack, Yemen’s military has deployed battalions and heavy weapons to the city’s outskirts. “We are prepared to repel any attack. We bolstered the front lines with newly graduated military battalions, including sniper and infantry forces. What the Houthis were unable to achieve in previous years would be possible today,” Al-Mekhlafi said.
The Houthis launched a major military offensive on Marib at the beginning of 2021, an offensive that has claimed the lives of thousands of combatants and civilians and sparked widespread local and international condemnation.
Despite getting closer to the city than ever before, the Houthis were unable to seize control of the city and its oil and gas fields, and were compelled to cease military operations.
The Yemeni government maintains that it will honor its commitments to international mediators to de-escalate in Marib and the other flashpoint regions of the country, but will respond to any military operations.
“We are aware that the Houthis have mobilized forces along the administrative borders of Lahj and Dhale and in Marib. The legitimate government is prepared to repel any attack even as Saudi, UN, American, and European mediators advise restraint,” a government official who wished to remain anonymous told Arab News.
At the same time, Yemen experts believe that the Houthis have taken advantage of the Arab coalition’s suspension of bombings under the truce to relocate major military equipment and weaponry outside Marib.
Mohammed Al-Salehi, editor of news website Marib Press, told Arab News that the Houthis had been determined to seize control of Marib since the beginning of the war, not only because of its strategic location, oil and gas fields, and major power plant but also because it strongly rejected the Houthi military takeover of power in Yemen. “Marib is the governorate that has steadfastly opposed the Houthi militia from day one, and it is home to all the opponents of the Houthis,” Al-Salehi said.