ALEXANDRIA (Reuters) – Fighting on the main battlefields outside the central Yemeni city of Marib came to a halt on Thursday as the Iran-backed Houthis halted their assaults after suffering heavy casualties and losing some military equipment, two local military officials told Arab News.
It follows Yemen’s call to the United States to increase military support and training for the country’s coastguard so they can curb Iranian arms smuggling to the Houthis.
Over the past five days, “unprecedented” fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis has erupted in several disputed areas outside of Marib. The rebels have renewed their attacks on government forces in an attempt to achieve gains on the ground that would bring them closer to the strategic city.
Yemeni military officials said dozens of rebel forces and government troops were killed in the fighting, with the Houthis also suffering heavy casualties. The rebels were forced to retreat after facing strong resistance and heavy aerial bombardment from Arab coalition warplanes.
“There is a cautious calm on the battlefields (Thursday) after the Houthis suffered heavy casualties in their latest attack,” a military official said on condition of anonymity.
Thousands of fighters and civilians have been killed in fighting and missile strikes in Marib province since February, when the Houthis resumed a major offensive to take control of the last government stronghold in northern Yemen.
Another military official said the Yemeni military received reports on Thursday that the Houthis were regrouping outside Marib and called for military reinforcements from Sana’a and other parts of northern Yemen.
“The national army is aware of the regrouping of combatants and will defeat them,” said the official, preferring anonymity.
Yemen has called on the United States to increase its military support to Coast Guard forces to help disrupt the flow of Iranian weapons and experts to the Houthis who fueled the latest conflict.
Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar on Wednesday met with Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command and US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, to discuss the fighting. Al-Ahmar urged the United States to train, arm and share intelligence with the Yemeni Coast Guard, which is trying to thwart a wave of arms smuggling from Iran to the Houthis across the country’s long coastline.
Al-Ahmar thanked the US and Arab navies for seizing several arms shipments from Iran to the Houthis, adding that his country’s coastguard would not be able to cope with the arms trafficking on their own. and drugs, the official SABA news agency reported. .
“The vice president stresses the importance of US and international support for efforts to combat terrorism and smuggling in our country and region,” SABA said.
“Yemen looks forward to more support and training for the Coast Guard forces so that they can play a greater role in combating Iranian arms smuggling and limiting activities threatening maritime security. “
The smuggling of arms, drugs and migrants has increased since early 2015, when Yemeni maritime forces collapsed as the Houthis grew rapidly across the country.
Shortly after intervening militarily in Yemen, in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015, the Arab coalition regrouped forces at military bases inside and outside Yemen. After the forces received military training, they were deployed to the country’s coastline on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.