Yemen’s Huthi rebels were expelled from a key battleground district by UAE-trained Giants Brigade fighters, the militia said on January 25, a day after the insurgents’ latest missile attack on Abu Dhabi.
The Iran-backed Huthis lost Harib district south of Marib, the government’s last northern stronghold which they have been fighting to seize for months.
The Giants Brigade said “hundreds were killed and wounded on both sides” in battles that lasted for more than two weeks and also secured the neighbouring governorate of Shabwa. There was no immediate comment from the Huthis.
“We thank the Arab coalition for their support for our operations in Shabwa, which were crowned with complete success,” the Giants Brigade said in a statement, referring to a Saudi-led military alliance.
The clashes are part of a major escalation in the seven-year war after the Huthis, following a series of territorial defeats, launched a deadly drone-and-missile attack on the UAE last week.
The Saudi-led pro-government coalition that includes the UAE hit back with a series of air strikes, one of which killed at least three children and plunged Yemen into a four-day internet outage.
Internet services were restored early on January 25, a web monitor and AFP correspondents said.
In rebel-held Saada on January 21, an attack on a prison left at least 70 people dead and wounded more than 100, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The coalition denied being behind the prison attack, which the Huthis said had killed 91 people and injured more than 200, as they lined up the bodies covered in white sheets along the ground on January 25.
On January 24, the rebels renewed their attack on Abu Dhabi when two ballistic missiles were intercepted over the city, scattering debris.
US forces based at the capital’s Al-Dhafra air base fired Patriot missiles to help repel the attack, while some of them also scrambled to bunkers, US officials said.
The UAE, which pulled most of its troops out of Yemen in 2019 but maintains support and training for pro-government forces, warned of a “thorough and comprehensive response” to the cross-border attack.
“The UAE reserves the right to respond against these terrorist attacks and such blatant criminal escalation,” a foreign ministry statement said, adding that the Huthis had targeted “civilian areas”.
Two people were injured in southern Saudi Arabia by further rebel missile attacks on January 24.
UN officials on January 25 said they were “alarmed by the escalating spiral of violence in Yemen that continues to harm civilians and is spilling over its borders”.
The prison attack is “the worst civilian-casualty incident in Yemen in three years”, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and its humanitarian coordinator for the country David Gressly said in a joint statement.
“The scale of the escalation is exacerbating an already severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen” and threatening regional security, they added.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the Huthi attacks and coalition air strikes “a troubling escalation”.