September 8-17: Marib offensive heats up, PM returns to Aden

Following the breakdown of UN-backed talks in the Omani capital, Muscat, the envoy to Yemen has urged the warring parties to return to the table to end the six-month conflict. Exiled President Hadi and his government in Riyadh announced Sunday that they will not participate in the upcoming UN peace talks, although the UN Envoy Ould Sheikh Ahmed earlier welcomed the warring parties’ readiness.  

In a statement, Ahmed said that the Houthi and GPC representatives “have shown a great degree of flexibility” during the recent talks held for weeks in Muscat.

Hadi’s announcement came one day after the Saudi-led coalition’s own forces have mounted a fresh offensive in the oil-rich province of Marib, along with trained local tribal fighters.

It’s been five days now since the launch of Marib Offensive, although clashes have reportedly been taking place in the southeastern areas of Marib since last Tuesday, when the Hadi-allied forces along with dozens of armored vehicles were sent from the eastern area of Safer to the headquarters of the 3rd Military Region and an allied military base nearby.

The southern and western areas have seen attack-and-retreat fighting, with troops from the coalition forces trying to advance eastward to al-Jufaina and al-Fow areas, while others are trying to regain Dhat al-Ra’, where the tribal encampments of both Nakhla and al-Suahil are held by the pro-Houthi forces.  Pro-Houthi forces have been trying to fend off any advancement of their opponents, reportedly using BM-22 rocket launchers against coalition armored vehicles. They claim to have destroyed more than 20 armored vehicles in addition to killing and arresting several troops from the coalition forces.

The UAE government has officially announced that one Emirati soldier was killed in Marib fighting, days after it said that the death toll of its soldiers, who killed by the ballistic missile attack on September 4 in Marib had risen to 52 soldiers. While Qatar’s government has not yet commented officially, Houthi-affiliated media claim that a senior Qatari officer was killed.

The coalition’s fighter jets and Apache helicopters were providing air support/cover in Marib fighting and targeted any suspected movement by the pro-Houthi forces in areas located on the borderlines with Shabwa, al-Baydha and al-Jawf provinces. The warplanes also destroyed the road connecting Marib to the capital, San’a, after it was reportedly designated (by the Popular Resistance) as a military target.

The fighter jets also hit residential areas in several cities and towns, killing dozens of civilians, mostly children and women. On Tuesday alone, at least 10 cities were hit by airstrikes; over a hundred civilians were reportedly killed and wounded. The six-month war has killed more than 4,500 Yemenis and brought the country to the brink of famine.

Across the Saudi border, pro-Houthi units have killed several Saudi soldiers and captured military bases in Najran, Jaizan and Aseer cities. The Saudi government announced that five soldiers were killed in Najran.

Meanwhile, Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah arrived in Aden along with seven ministers from the government in exile. This second appearance since his first brief visit on the first of August comes as a step toward restoring a government after months of working from exile Riyadh. "Khaled Bahah and the ministers who arrived with him are in Aden to stay permanently," said exiled government spokesman Rajeh Badi.