Yemen's Houthi rebels suffer heavy casualties in attack on Marib province

Week-old rebel offensive seeks to take government's last stronghold in the north

Smoke billows during clashes between forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebel fighters in al-Jadaan area about 50 kilometres northwest of Marib in central Yemen on February 11, 2021. Yemen's Iran-backed Huthis rebels have resumed an offensive to seize strategic oil-rich Marib, the government's last northern stronghold, the loss of which would be disastrous for the beleaguered leadership. / AFP / Mumen KHATIB
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Dozens of Houthis were killed in fighting with Yemeni government forces and allied tribes in Marib on Friday as the rebels pressed an offensive to capture the northern province.

Fierce battles between the Houthi rebels and pro-government troops backed by local tribes have been raging in southern and western Marib for more than a week.

The clashes intensified on the Kasara front in western Marib on Friday, leaving at least 60 rebels dead, according to a military source.

"Our troops backed by the tribes thwarted more than five offensives launched by rebels attempting to penetrate the western front towards the centre of the province," the source told The National.

“Sixty of the Houthi fighters were killed."

Heavy fighting also broke out in Al Makhdara, Hailan Mountain and Sirwah areas in western Marib.

"Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed in Sirwah front on Friday, among them top Houthi leaders including two field commanders called Abu Salah Al Hamzi and Al Nehmi Al Sharif who were killed in a counter-attack launched by pro-government forces," Lt Tariq Al Sayed, an officer serving in Marib, told The National.

He said aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government launched strikes at Houthi positions, military reinforcements and equipment in western Marib.

“The coalition launched several strikes in Sirwah and Hailan Mountain on Friday. They destroyed two tanks and five military vehicles that were going to reinforce Houthi fighters in Hailan Mountain,” Lt Al Sayed said

The rebel attack on Marib, the government's last stronghold in northern Yemen, comes amid increasing international efforts to end the country's six-year-old civil war.

The US special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, met President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi in Riyadh on Thursday to discuss reviving the peace process.

Mr Hadi blamed the Houthi rebels and their backer Iran for blocking peace efforts and violating obligations under previous agreements, the Yemeni state Saba news agency reported.

The president told Mr Lenderking that the rebels had not only failed to meet their obligations towards peace, but were targeting civilians with Iranian-made missiles and drones, including in displacement camps, as well as launching attacks on Saudi Arabia, according to Saba.

Government forces in western Hodeidah province said the rebels have been attacking civilian areas in recent days.

"The Houthis kept indiscriminately shelling residential neighbourhoods in Hays district for the last couple of days," Aseel Al Sakladi, a spokesman for the Al Amalika Brigades, told The National on Friday.

“On Friday morning the rebels shelled the northern outskirts of Hays using light and medium weapons,” he said.

The rebels also renewed attacks in the government-held southern province of Dhalea on Saturday, a spokesman for the pro-government Southern Forces said.

"At 1.30am our forces foiled a large-scale attack by the Houthi rebels on posts controlled by the Southern Forces in Soubaira and Al Gob," Capt Fuad Jubari told The National.

“Our troops also thwarted another attack launched in Bab Ghalak and Hijar in north-east Dhalea. The rebels attacked our troops at 4am to try to take Sameh mountain and other posts in the southern Hijar area using heavy weapons including tanks,” he said.