Heavy fighting rages on in the strategic city of Marib in Yemen as the Saudi Arabia-led Gulf military coalition announced on Sunday, October 17, that it killed at least 165 Houthi fighters in more than 30 airstrikes conducted over 24 hours. According to a statement by the coalition cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, 32 airstrikes were carried out in the south of Marib in the Abidiya district, destroying 11 military vehicles belonging to the Houthis and “eliminating” more than 160 Houthi fighters. The statement added that more than 1.000 Houthi fighters were killed in the area in the past week. The Houthi movement hasn’t yet confirmed the casualties.
However, in the ongoing battle between the Western and Saudi-backed forces of deposed president Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi and the Houthi militias, the latter seems to be prevailing, with news reports stating that they have gained significant territory in and around Marib. The Houthis have reportedly taken over several fronts in the last remaining stronghold of Hadi’s forces in the north of the country, including the Abidiya district, which lies about 100 km (60 miles) from Marib city.
The Houthis launched an offensive in Marib in February to wrest control of the area from Hadi’s forces. After a brief hiatus, intense fighting and violence resumed between the two sides to maintain control over Marib. In a tweet, the Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam alleged that Houthi fighters encountered fighters affiliated with the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorist groups on several occasions during the fighting. He claimed that these fighters are linked with the “forces of aggression,” referring to the Saudi-led military coalition.
Meanwhile, the United Nations, expressing concerns regarding the increased risks of death and injury posed to the civilians in the area due to the current escalation in fighting, called upon all sides to halt fighting in Abidiya. According to the UN, aid for approximately 35,000 people has been “extremely restricted,” including about 17,000 “extremely vulnerable” people who came to Marib to seek refuge from other parts of Yemen. Government data states that there are about 139 refugee camps in Marib. The city hosts approximately 2.2 million Yemenis and many internally displaced refugees.
The war and the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen have affected thousands since the conflict erupted in 2014 after the Houthis took control of most of the north of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The following year in March, the Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily on behalf of the Yemeni government. The military intervention, criticized and condemned widely by the international community, has created what has been called the ‘worst humanitarian crisis.’
Along with the military operations, the coalition’s blockade of the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah port has also caused the humanitarian situation to worsen. The blockade has caused extreme shortages of essential food and medical items and impeding the supply of international aid for the internally displaced Yemeni refugees.