At least 60 Yemeni soldiers were killed and 120 others injured in a rebel missile and drone attack on a military base in Marib on Saturday night, military sources in the north-western province said.
The Houthi rebels fired two missiles at the base, one of which struck a mosque while the other hit a munitions store, triggering further explosions. The victims were from the 4th Presidential Guard Brigade who had arrived recently from the southern province of Shabwa for training, a military source said.
"The Houthis targeted the soldiers as they gathered in the mosque to listen to a sermon," the source told The National.
“One of the missiles exploded in the mosque, followed by a drone in the same place. Meanwhile, the other missile fell on a weapons and ammunition depot, causing a huge fire followed by a series of explosions.”
Medical officials appealed for blood donations for the injured soldiers, who were being treated at a military hospital and a public hospital in Marib city.
“The hospital is packed with the injured brought by ambulances from the base," a source at the military hospital said.
"Many died as soon as they arrived in the emergency room, while some of the injured are in a stable condition.
"Some soldiers arrived in critical condition with heavy loss of blood."
Another military source said 80 per cent of the victims were from the southern provinces of Abyan and Lahj. Their brigade was pushed out of the port city of Aden during clashes between government troops and forces allied to the Southern Transitional Council in August last year.
“They left Aden as the pro-STC forces took over their base. They first assembled in Shabwa province, and they were transferred to Marib to receive military training and to be re-equipped," the source said.
Government and STC forces, who are allies in the battle against the Iran-backed Houthis, recently began withdrawing to their original positions under a peace deal brokered by Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab military coalition supporting the government.
Most of Marib province is under the control of pro-government forces apart from pockets in the western districts of Sirwah and Hareeb. The Houthis also hold the Hailan mountain in the area, which they use to launch missile attacks.
The attack in Marib came as Arab Coalition aircraft renewed raids on Houthi positions in Nihm and Khawlan east of Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, on Saturday night.
The Houthi attack came only days after the UN envoy for Yemen told the UN Security Council the country had one its quietest periods since the start of the conflict.
"We have seen no major acts of military provocation in Yemen," Martin Griffiths told the council on Thursday. "This is remarkable. Indeed, it has been one of the quietest weeks in Yemen since the war began."