Yemen’s Huthi rebels were driven out of a key district by the United Arab Emirates-trained Giants Brigade, the militia said Tuesday, a day after the insurgents’ latest missile attack on Abu Dhabi.
The Iran-backed Huthis lost Harib district south of Marib, the strategically vital northern city they have been fighting to topple 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,” a Giants Brigade statement said.
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 volley 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.
On Monday, the rebels renewed their attack on Abu Dhabi as 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 latest barrage.
“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 targeted “civil areas”.
Two people were injured in southern Saudi Arabia by further rebel missile attacks on Monday.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the Huthi attacks and coalition air strikes “a troubling escalation”.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also met with envoys to the UAE and Saudi Arabia to “discuss ongoing Huthi attacks against civilian targets that have resulted in civilian casualties in both countries”, the White House said in a statement on Monday.
The rebels warned of further attacks on the UAE after their latest missile strike was repelled. Three oil workers died in their initial salvo on January 17.
Recent developments have sent regional tensions soaring and further complicated the intractable Yemen conflict that is being fought on several fronts.
More than 150,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the impoverished country, according to the United Nations which calls it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.