AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Dozens of Houthis and government troops were killed on Thursday in fierce clashes in Marib with local officials and NGOs warning that the fighting will have a major impact on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Heavy fighting broke out on Thursday in Marib’s Kasara, Serwah, Murad, Jada’an, and Al-Makhdra areas as government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition warplanes, fought off relentless Houthi attacks.
A local military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Arab News that 27 Houthis died along with four government troops, including a field military commander, Brig. Ahmed Al-Shara’abi. They were killed as the coalition warplanes targeted Houthi fighters and reinforcements heading to the battlefields in Marib.
Amateur videos posted on social media by government supporters showed dozens of dead Houthi fighters abandoned in the desert and mountainous areas in Marib and neighboring Jawf. Official figures say more than 700 Houthis have been killed in a week of fierce fighting in the region.
The current uptick in fighting began earlier this month when the Iran-backed Houthis resumed a major offensive to seize control of the oil and gas-rich city of Marib, the Yemen government’s last major stronghold in the northern half of the country.
Despite aggressive ground attacks and heavy missile and drone strikes on the city, the rebels have failed to advance toward the city after suffering heavy casualties.
On Thursday, Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, Yemen’s army spokesman, told Arab News that the army troops and allied tribesmen have prevented the Houthis from making any gains.
The Yemeni army officer hailed the role of the Arab coalition warplanes, which paved the way for the army troops and tribesmen as they pushed the Houthis back on Marib battlefields.
At the same time, Yemeni government officials and rights groups have repeated concerns about the impact the Houthi offensive has had on thousands of displaced people living in Marib.
Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar Al-Aryani on Thursday accused the Houthis of targeting displacement camps in Marib and using the people as human shields. He warned the rebels’ offensive would displace more than 2 million people sheltered in the city after fleeing the fighting and Houthi suppression in their home provinces.
“We call for an international investigation into the crimes of Houthi militia against displacement camps in Marib province,” the Yemeni minister said in a Twitter post. “This is a clear violation of the rules of international humanitarian law relating to the protection of civilians (during conflicts).”
The Houthi offensive has obstructed the distribution of vital humanitarian assistance to the displaced people and undermined calls for peace, the Yemeni minister said.
The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, along with 30 other local and international human rights and civil society organizations, on Wednesday wrote a joint letter to the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, urging the EU to intervene. The groups warned of a major humanitarian disaster if the Houthis invaded the city.
Abdul Rahman Barman, the president of the American Center for Justice, one of the signatories, told Arab News the rebels would persecute the 2 million displaced people who live in Marib, which would prompt them to seek refuge in other safer areas in Yemen.
“We participated in this letter as Marib hosts the biggest concentration of the displaced people in Yemen,” Barman said. “We demand the international community to use its power to pressure the Houthis and to stop their assault on Marib.”