The Houthis on Monday moved ahead with an offensive on the government-controlled Yemeni city of Marib, despite encountering fierce military resistance and strong condemnation, Arab News reports.
Hundreds of Houthis marched toward Marib from three fronts, triggering clashes with army troops and allied tribesmen backed by air cover from Arab coalition warplanes, Yemeni government officials said. The continuing offensive by the Iran-backed militia has killed and wounded dozens of rebel fighters and loyalists as the rebels failed to advance toward their targets, military and tribal sources said.
Government troops pushed back Houthi attacks and killed, wounded and captured dozens of fighters, said Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili. Videos and images on social media showed Yemeni army pick-ups carrying dozens of dead and wounded Houthi fighters, with others dead and abandoned on the battlefields.
Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, said the movement had a “divine mandate” to push government forces and the coalition from Marib, describing the offensive as a “decisive battle” for the militia.
Yemen’s foreign minister strongly condemned the Houthi push on Marib, calling it a “a blatant defiance” of the international community’s demands for ending the war in Yemen. He said it was proof that the Houthis were not serious about peace.
“This terrorist attack is a clear military escalation, and confirms once again the government of Yemen’s repeated warnings that Houthis do not believe in peace and only thrive by the sounds of weaponry,” the ministry said, warning that a Houthi invasion of Marib would aggravate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
“The Houthis also are still exacerbating the humanitarian crisis through their continued use of violence and targeting of innocent civilians, including the internally displaced persons who have already fled to Marib to escape from the Houthis’ many brutalities,” the ministry added.
The British ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, demanded the Houthis cease their offensive.
“We strongly condemn the Houthis’ targeting of Marib and Jouf,” the British diplomat tweeted. “They must stop these attacks immediately and demonstrate their sincerity in wanting peace by supporting the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.”
On Sunday, the Biden State Department urged the Houthis to stop launching terrorist attacks after the Saudi-led military coalition intercepted a Houthi drone strike against civilian targets.
The Saudi military coalition reported intercepting and destroying an armed drone launched by the Houthis from northern Yemen against civilian targets in southern Saudi Arabia.
“It was launched systematically and deliberately by the terrorist Houthi militia to target civilians and civilian objects in the south of the region,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliiki charged.
The Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of the Yemen’s north, did not immediately claim responsibility for the drone attack.
The incident came as the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, began a two-day visit to Iran to discuss Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and after the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden announced last week that it would withdraw support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen.
“The Special Envoy’s immediate priority is to support agreement between the parties to the conflict on a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process,” a U.N. statement said.
On Sunday evening, the State Department said it was “deeply troubled by continued Houthi attacks.”
“We urge the Houthis to refrain from destabilizing actions and demonstrate their commitment to constructively engage in UN Special Envoy Griffiths’ efforts to achieve peace. The time is now to find an end to this conflict,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department said it had notified Congress of its intention to drop the Houthi rebels from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The administration of former President Donald Trump designated the Houthis as a terrorist group late last year.
President Joe Biden plans to rescind the Trump administration’s decision to label the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen a terrorist organization to allow international humanitarian aid, funded in part by U.S. taxpayers, to flow into areas controlled by the Iran-backed group, a State Department spokesman indicated on Monday.
“Some 80 percent of Yemen’s civilian population lives under Houthi control in Yemen, which is why we’re profoundly concerned for the humanitarian applications of [the group’s] designation [as a terrorist organization],” Ned Price, a spokesman at State, told reporters on Monday.
The terrorist designation by the Trump administration, which came with severe U.S. sanctions, would hamper the provision of aid to Houthi-controlled areas, according to some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
The U.S.-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), an NGO, welcomed plans to rescind the Houthi rebels’ terrorist group designation. David Miliband, the IRC head, indicated the designation “would only hinder much-needed aid deliveries to Yemenis living in Houthi-held areas,” ABC News reported Saturday.
Excluding private aid organizations, the U.S. government has already provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Yemen since 2019 alone.