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Yemen insurgents lose key battleground area after missile attack on UAE

Iran-backed Houthis lose Harib district, south of Marib

By AFP - Jan 25,2022 - Last updated at Jan 25,2022

Yemeni pro-government forces are pictured during fighting with Houthi militiamen on the south frontline of Marib, November 10, 2021 (AFP photo)

SHABWA, Yemen — Yemen's Houthi insurgents were expelled from a key battleground district by UAE-trained Giants Brigade fighters, the militia said Tuesday, a day after the insurgents' latest missile attack on Abu Dhabi.

The Iran-backed Houthis 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 Houthis.

“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 Houthis, 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 Tuesday, a web monitor and AFP correspondents said.

In rebel-held Saada last Friday, 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 Houthis said had killed 91 people and injured more than 200, as they lined up the bodies covered in white sheets along the ground on Tuesday.

On Monday, 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.

‘Troubling escalation’ 

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 Houthis had targeted “civilian areas”.

Two people were injured in southern Saudi Arabia by further rebel missile attacks on Monday.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the Houthi attacks and coalition air strikes “a troubling escalation”.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also met with the UAE and Saudi ambassadors to Washington to “discuss ongoing Houthi attacks against civilian targets that have resulted in civilian casualties in both countries”, the White House said Monday.

Arms sales from the United States, as well as Britain and France, back the Saudi-led coalition.

Rights groups have long criticised the coalition for civilian casualties in its aerial bombardments.

According to the Yemen Data Project, an independent tracker, there have been almost 9,000 civilian casualties from coalition air raids since 2015.

The rebels warned of further attacks on the UAE after their latest missile strike was repelled. Three foreign oil workers died in their initial salvo on January 17.

Latest developments have sent regional tensions soaring and further complicated the Yemen conflict that is being fought on several fronts.

More than 150,000 people have been directly killed by fighting and millions displaced in the impoverished country, according to the United Nations which calls it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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