AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis continue to mobilize heavy military reinforcements outside Yemen’s central city of Marib, exploiting the absence of the Arab coalition warplanes during the UN-brokered truce, a military official and local media reports said.
Hundreds of Houthi fighters, tanks and heavy artillery were repositioned on the western and southern edges of the strategic city from other Houthi-controlled areas, with the militia preparing to resume its push to seize control of Marib, the Yemeni government’s last major urban bastion in the northern half of the country.
“The Houthis have moved hundreds of fighters and heavy equipment to west and south of Marib exploiting a cessation of Arab coalition airstrikes,” a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Arab News, adding that government troops stuck to the truce and were prepared to push back any attacks by the Houthis.
The Houthis also launched an explosive-laden drone and a missile at the government-controlled Malla, south of Marib, an area that hosts dozens of internally displaced people, the official said.
Under the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2, warring factions in Yemen agreed to halt fighting on battlefields and launch cross-border attacks on neighboring countries.
The Arab coalition also announced a halt to its airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.
Since early last year, the Houthis have been aggressively attacking the city of Marib from the west and south, an offensive that claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and combatants and displaced thousands of people.
Yemen’s army said that the Houthis have violated the truce hundreds of times in many provinces by moving troops, launching drones and missiles and fortifying their positions.
Similarly, the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, urged the Yemeni parties to adhere to their pledges to stop fighting for two months and voiced his disappointment over the postponement of the first commercial flight from the Houthi-controlled Sanaa airport.
“We’re disappointed the 1st commercial flight from Sana’a was postponed, depriving Yemenis of an important opportunity to travel. We urge the parties to work together to resume flights as soon as possible & maintain their commitment to the truce for Yemenis,” Lenderking said on Twitter on Sunday.
Yemen’s government on Sunday announced that the first commercial flight from Sanaa airport to Amman was postponed after the Houthis insisted on adding dozens of passengers with unauthorized passports, accusing the Houthis of seeking to smuggle foreign military experts and fighters out of Yemen, using fake documents.
Only passengers with passports issued by the Yemeni government would be allowed to board planes from Sanaa airport, the government said.
Separately, unidentified men on Sunday evening blew up a pipeline that carries gas from Marib to Balhaf LNG Plant in the province of Shabwa.
Residents said that the attack took place in a desert area in Mayfa district in Shabwa and triggered a huge explosion and a giant plume of fire that turned night into day.
“The attackers blew up the pipeline with remotely controlled landmines. We do not know if they are Al-Qaeda or local tribesmen,” a resident, who preferred to be unknown, told Arab News by telephone.
The flow of gas and oil from Marib’s fields has largely been halted since late 2014 when the Houthis militarily seized power, forcing companies into deserting the country. Residents said that the attacked pipeline in Shabwa is used for supplying a power station and Balhaf LNG plant with gas.