Yemeni forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees, backed by tribesmen, are close to liberating the city of Ma’rib as they have made new advances on the last stronghold of Saudi militants in northern Yemen.
They captured the Um Reesh camp after fierce clashes with Saudi-backed militants. The camp is located in the Juba district, south of Ma'rib province. The Yemeni army also gained control over the Jarsha district.
These are the latest in a series of gains the Yemeni army has made in recent days. Since last year, Ma'rib has turned into a focus of the Yemeni army operations. It is the last stronghold of the Saudi-backed forces.
The Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal reported on Friday that the Yemeni forces’ recent recapture of al-Juba and Jabal Murad districts had brought them closer to Ma’rib’s provincial capital.
The spokesman of the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said the Murad tribe, one of the most powerful tribes in Yemen, had played a major role in the latest advances in Ma’rib.
He also noted that the Yemeni soldiers are seeking to liberate Ma’rib city, pledging to secure its residents and their properties.
Using a pseudonym, Ahmed, a militant loyal to former Riyadh-backed Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Ma’rib, said the Yemeni troops had advanced in Jabal Murad district peacefully after tribesmen switched sides and joined them in the battles.
“Tribal fighters from the Murad tribe were leading the battles against the Houthis in Jabal Murad district, but they have disappointed us and joined the Houthis,” he explained. “In one night they changed from allies to fighters with the Houthis.”
Meanwhile, local reports said that Yemeni tribal leaders had arrived in the capital Sana’a to hold talks with the popular Ansarullah movement about a peaceful takeover of Ma’rib city.
“Residents of Ma’rib weren’t aware about the agreement between the Houthis and the tribal leaders of the Murad tribe and we only found out after the Yemeni forced advance on Jabal Murad district,” said Jaber, a Ma’rib city resident.
“I think there are talks between the Houthis and tribal leaders, especially after the recent advances and the support the Houthis received from the tribal leaders, but we don’t know details.”
He further said that the Yemeni forces are now near the road that leads to Safer oil field, where the wealth of Ma’rib is located.
“If the Houthis go towards Safer that means they will take over Ma’rib’s wealth, the main source of income for the province,” he added.
“In all cases, I don’t think there will be battles in the city and I believe if the Houthis advance towards the city there will be a peaceful resolution. If battles do take place in the city, a disaster will ensue in Ma’rib.”
The oil and natural gas-rich province of Ma’rib has turned into a focus of the Yemeni army’s liberation operations since last year.
The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting deadly air raids to prevent the Yemeni troops from reaching Ma’rib city.
Saudi Arabia launched a devastating military aggression against its southern neighbor in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies, and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western countries.
The aim was to return to power the Hadi regime and crush the popular Ansarullah movement which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.
The war killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned entire Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, however, it has stopped well shy of all of its goals.
Meanwhile, Yemeni forces have gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the impoverished country.