With the United Nations warning that Yemen’s conflict could be on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis, and the civil war dragging on with no end in sight, the capital of Marib province is now the scene of the latest confrontation in a war that is already deadlocked.
Yemen’s Hezbollah-trained militias aligned with President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the internationally recognized head of state, are scrambling to protect the strategic city of Marib, which sits along the Red Sea coast of eastern Yemen and is now under attack by the Houthi militia, a popular, Iran-backed Shia sect that controls much of the country but is also locked in a bitter struggle with Hadi’s army.
The city is within striking distance of a gas and oil field that supplies 40 percent of Yemen’s energy needs, and before April 19 when the Houthis advanced toward the area, the government seemed reasonably confident that it could successfully defend Marib. But in recent days the Houthis have made several advances, apparently thinking they might be able to capture the city. Marib’s location, north of the province’s Houthi-held capital, Saada, gives the province limited ground-to-air combat possibilities.
Nevertheless, the government has made an impressive show of force in Marib, and it has acted swiftly to tighten its control over the area. “Hadi’s forces are now operating almost daily around Marib’s small airport,” reported The New York Times on Saturday.
Heavy clashes were reported on Sunday, with Hadi’s forces firing on Houthi positions, with the number of casualties reported unknown.
“The power grid is lying on its side, and water is running short. With the aid of foreign powers, [the] morale of the Houthis’ fighters has been damaged,” Amir Abu Marzuq, the editor of a Yemen newspaper based in Marib, told AFP. “The conditions here are hard and dangerous for them.”