CAIRO - Intense fighting has been reported along several fronts outside the Yemeni city of Marib, controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi. Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the nearby capital of Sanaa, have been trying to capture Marib and strategic points surrounding it, including oil and gas production facilities.
Houthi militia fighters claim to have captured territory overlooking the city of Marib, held by forces loyal to Hadi. Video on Houthi media claims to show Houthi fighters pushing back government forces. Marib is located about 120 kilometers east of Sanaa.
Media loyal to Hadi's government are reporting that his forces pushed back the fighters along the nearby Kassara front, killing several dozen people over a 24-hour period. VOA could not independently confirm the claims by either side.
Arab media also reported that off the coast of Somalia, a U.S. naval ship captured a number of small vessels involved in smuggling Iranian weapons to the Houthis in Yemen.
Houthi media showed video of Houthi fighters on small pickup trucks capturing the Marib dam, outside the city, Monday. Photos also showed Houthi commanders in front of a military camp they reportedly captured from Hadi's forces. Saudi warplanes reportedly strafed Houthi positions on the ground, recapturing some territory.
Abdel Wahab Tawwaf, Yemen's former ambassador to Syria, told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television that the Houthis were "bombing civilian refugee camps outside Marib with rockets," and "sending children to Marib on suicide missions to try and capture oil and gas production facilities."
Children can be seen on videos of pro-Houthi media carrying guns and riding on Houthi pickup trucks during the recent fighting outside of Marib.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, notes that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking a solution to the Yemen conflict, including reversing a decision by the previous Trump administration to designate the Houthis as terrorists. Abou Diab, however, told VOA the Houthis remain an Iranian proxy force and do not appear willing to seek compromise.
He said amid the Biden administration efforts to change course in Yemen, the Houthis are escalating fighting in Marib and launching armed drones over Saudi territory, including Abha Airport.
Saudi media reported that a Houthi drone was shot down over Saudi territory, Wednesday. At least half a dozen such drones have also been shot down during the past week.
Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, told VOA that the fighting in Marib is “vicious," and "will likely solve nothing." He said the goals of each of the parties, "are so different, one has to wonder what will resolve this nightmarish conflict."
The war started in 2014, when the Houthis seized Sanaa and much of the country's north. A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed force intervened the following year to dislodge the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government.