KADUNA, Yemen – At least 15 people were killed and 30 injured when government troops fighting Houthi rebels over the past two days suffered heavy losses in Marib, a Yemeni security official said.
Marib, located on the Bab al-Mandab strait, is the last stronghold of security forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who are battling a Houthi advance on a military base around the capital Sanaa.
Saleh has been leading a coalition of fighters in an uprising against the Houthis. He recently made a dramatic return from France to Yemen, securing a ceasefire deal that gives Houthis a significant role in rebuilding the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a former ally.
This ceasefire expires Sunday, a source in the Houthi political bureau told Reuters.
The Yemeni governor’s forces first succeeded in repelling the Houthis from two streets in the suburb of Tarabl, which is home to an influential local military commander and members of the Saleh family, Yemeni security officials said.
The officials said Houthi fighters then entered a pro-government air base in Marib’s Khadija Ojbayla in an assault that began Saturday evening, prompting government loyalists to shell Houthi positions from behind, killing at least 15 Houthi fighters and wounding about 60.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.
A second military official said troops were able to thwart an attempt by Houthi fighters to capture the Dar al-Ift border post around the northern city of Hajja.
“Both sides claimed some battlefield victories over the past 24 hours,” the official said.
Marib governor Saleh al-Qubati confirmed his forces had reclaimed the air base but said both sides had suffered casualties, though he gave no details.
Fighting has been intensifying in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition began striking Yemenis rebels in March last year. A Saudi-led air coalition has been trying to break a two-year stalemate.
The Houthis and allied forces loyal to Saleh took control of Sanaa last September. Since then, the rebels have made rapid advances into the west of the country, forcing Hadi to flee.
In northern Yemen, ground fighting continued to rage despite a ceasefire. In the city of Saada, where the Houthis control much of the countryside, fierce clashes continued on Saturday between militias loyal to Saleh and the Houthis, a resident said.
The resident said hundreds of Houthi fighters advanced from the north into the heart of Saada, with the support of residents.
In central Marib, more than 100 people were wounded, Yemeni security officials said. They added that fighting in Marib and Saada has killed several hundred people.