AL-MUKALLA: The governor of the battlefield of Yemen’s Marib province on Wednesday assembled troops to defend it against an advance by the Houthis amid potentially decisive fighting for the provincial capital.
Governor Sultan Al-Arada has vowed that the people of Marib, the Yemeni army and the Saudi-led Arab coalition will defeat the Iranian-backed militia.
“We will not allow those who pose pictures of Qassem Soleimani to rule us,” said the governor. Soleimani was the commander of the Iranian Quds Force who was killed in a US airstrike in January last year.
Yemeni army spokesman Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili told Arab News on Wednesday that the Houthis had been driven back from government-controlled areas west of the town of Marib, with many assailants killed or wounded.
Marib is the last stronghold of the Yemeni government in the north of the country and is rich in oil and gas reserves. The Houthis are desperate to seize the province to increase their influence in possible peace talks, but loyalist forces are also determined to defend it.
A senior Yemeni military official was killed and several soldiers were wounded on Wednesday as the Houthis stepped up bombardment of targets in the town of Marib.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry said Brig. General Abul Ghani Mohammed Salman, director of the ministry’s officers’ affairs department, died while “facing” the Houthi militia.
A Houthi missile that landed in the Rawda region of Marib province on Wednesday morning triggered a large explosion that rocked the city and neighboring IDP camps. A local health official told Arab News that no one was injured.
The Houthis have stepped up drone and missile strikes on densely populated Marib as their ground forces move towards the city.
Thousands of Houthis and government soldiers have been killed in the bitter fighting in the province, which began in February when the rebel group renewed a major offensive to take control of Marib.
On Tuesday, two Houthi military commanders of a major Marib battlefield were killed in fighting with government forces and in Arab coalition airstrikes over the past seven days.
Meanwhile, the Houthis continued their airstrikes against civilian and energy infrastructure targets in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed another armed drone fired from northern Yemen towards the southern city of Khamis Mushayt.
The Houthis have rejected a Saudi proposal for an immediate ceasefire and talks on a lasting political solution to the conflict in Yemen. Instead, the Iranian-backed group demanded the reopening of Sana’a airport for uncontrolled flights between Yemen and Iran.
UN envoy to Yemen calls on Houthis to end attack on MaribBlinken calls on the international community to question the Houthis about the assault on Marib.