ALEXANDRIA: Yemeni troops and local tribesmen seized control of the headquarters of a key district in the central province of Marib, scoring major gains in the area for the first time in years, an army spokesperson said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili said that government troops controlled the center of Rahabah district after heavy clashes with Houthis, who retreated to neighboring areas. The army had killed, wounded and captured dozens of rebel fighters during the latest clashes in Marib, he added.
“The battles will continue until we take full control of Rahabah district.”
Local tribesmen first announced the liberation of Rahabah on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after dozens of fighters stormed a building that hosted government offices.
Combatants posed for pictures outside the building as other armed men retrieved weapons and vehicles abandoned by the Houthis, witnesses said.
Backed by massive air support from the Arab coalition, the Yemeni army and tribesmen have applied defensive and attrition tactics in Marib since earlier this year to push back a major Houthi offensive on the oil-rich city.
Thousands have been killed in battle, with the rebels failing to make major advances toward Marib.
Local army officials and experts said the liberation of Rahabah would put troops closer to Sanaa province and enable them to send military reinforcements to neighboring Al-Bayda.
Pushing the Houthis from Rahabah, which sits along a key road that links Sanaa with Marib, would help the army cut the militia’s supply lines to fighters in Marib’s Serwah district.
Local media on Thursday reported that the Houthis had amassed troops nearby, preparing for a counterattack to recapture Rahabah and other liberated areas in Jabal Murad district.
Majili said that government troops pushed back many assaults by the Houthis in Al-Mashjah and Al-Kasara, west of Marib, as the rebels pressed to break the army’s defenses. He hailed the coalition’s warplanes for destroying dozens of Houthi fighters, military vehicles, and weapons.
Experts said the army should now focus on securing liberated areas in Marib from predicted counterattacks by the Houthis and defuse landmines instead of pushing into new areas.
Troops suffered major defeats in Al-Bayda after the Houthis recaptured Al-Zaher district through a brief counterattack.