Yemen: War in Marib intensifies amid Houthis Advances through out the province
Yemen– Yemen’s brutal conflict is escalating once more, with the United Nations warning of catastrophic implications. Since government forces conquered neighboring Shabwa province last week, fighting has intensified near the Yemeni city of Marib. According to Reuters, the Giants Brigade, a pro-Yemeni government militia funded by the UAE, has entered the combat in Marib to beat back Houthi rebel troops attempting to conquer the oil-rich enclave.
The assessment comes only two days after Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, warned of a hazardous escalation in the seven-year conflict that has plunged the Arab world’s poorest country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
On one hand, Yemen’s government is backed by a military coalition of neighboring states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which has been equipped by the US and other western countries throughout much of the conflict, but offensive support has been ceased by the US.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a Zaydi Shia militia who overthrew the government in Aden in 2015, are on the opposite side. In recent years, the Houthis have received more weaponry and training from Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival in the area. A UN-backed attempt for a ceasefire between the two parties has failed, since Yemen’s rebels have refused to accept Riyadh’s offer of a truce last year.
The Houthis have asked that the Saudi-led embargo on Yemen be lifted completely. The Houthis confirmed last week that the violence killed their deputy governor for Shabwa province. Meanwhile, US authorities claim that the Houthis continue to get weaponry from Iran, a claim disputed by the Islamic Republic. According to UN sources, the ongoing violence near Shabwa and al-Jawf has displaced roughly 15,000 residents. “On the battlefield, there is no viable long-term solution,” ambassador Grundberg told the Security Council on Wednesday. “We appear to be entering an escalatory cycle once more, with foreseeable consequences for civilians and the near-term prospects for peace,” Grundberg added.
The UN ambassador expressed concern that the conflict may spread to other parts of the country. The Houthis captured an Emirati-flagged medical ship last month. The insurgents posted a video that appeared to show military equipment on board the ship. As the Riyadh-led coalition ramps up its air campaign in Yemen, the Houthis have continued to fire ballistic missiles and explosive drones into Saudi Arabia.
The Gulf coalition targeted Sanaa’s international airport last month, claiming it was being used for Houthi drone storage and command centers. According to the rebels, the airport was shut down because it was receiving UN help. The UN’s deputy chief for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Ramesh Rajasingham, stated this week that civilian casualties in December reached 358, the highest number in three years, with no indication of an end in sight. Due to a serious funding shortage, the UN’s World Food Program cut food supplies to Yemen this month.