Houthis' bloody Marib attack sparks outcry

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden and AFP

Members of the Iran-backed Houthi military police parade in the streets of the capital Sanaa on January 8th during "martyrs" week. The Houthis attacked a military camp in Marib January 18th, killing more than 100 soldiers. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Members of the Iran-backed Houthi military police parade in the streets of the capital Sanaa on January 8th during "martyrs" week. The Houthis attacked a military camp in Marib January 18th, killing more than 100 soldiers. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Yemenis have strongly condemned an attack by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers on Saturday (January 18th).

A mosque at a military camp in Marib province was attacked by a missile and drone strike during evening prayers, killing 116 and wounding more than 60 others, military and medical sources said.

The al-Istiqbal military training camp and the nearby al-Nasr camp were targeted in the attack, which has been roundly blamed on the Houthis, though the militia did not make any immediate claim of responsibility.

The huge casualty list in Marib represents one of the bloodiest single attacks since the conflict in Yemen erupted in 2014.

Saudi-owned Al-Hadath television broadcast a video that it said showed the gruesome aftermath of the attack.

Body parts can be seen on the floor among shredded debris. Blood is pooled on the carpet and spattered against the walls.

An army spokesman said the dead included soldiers and civilians, and that the Houthis would face a "ruthless" retaliation to the strike.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi denounced the "cowardly and terrorist" attack on the mosque, local media reported.

This attack confirms that the Houthis "have no desire for peace because they are only good at death and destruction, and are a cheap tool in the service of Iran's agenda in the region", he said.

"We strongly condemn the terrorist attack on a mosque by the Houthi militias," the Yemeni foreign ministry said in a social media post.

Houthis under pressure

In a statement, Yemen's Defence Ministry described the attack as "a Houthi attempt to exact revenge" for the killing of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3rd.

Iran's proxies in Iraq and Lebanon are suffering because of domestic protests, political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq, noting that the Houthis' attack "seems to be in response to the killing of Soleimani".

The Iranian regime aims to show that its regional proxies "are capable of carrying out high-level operations against parties hostile to Iran", he said.

"The [Yemeni] army's response will be harsh on the battleground," said Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Abdullah Majali.

"The attack came in response to the killing and wounding of scores of Houthis on the Nahm front, where battles have entered their fifth day," he told Al-Mashareq.

The drone and missile strike came a day after coalition-backed government forces launched a large-scale operation against the Houthis in the Nahm region, north-east of Sanaa.

As of Monday, 80 Houthis have been killed and 100 captured in clashes with the Yemeni army as it continues its advance to liberate the region, according to media reports.

Attack defies Islamic, humanitarian principles

With the camp attack, the Houthis have proven "they are no different from other terrorist groups that target worshippers at mosques", Majali said.

"The Houthis are proceeding with their terrorist practices, by targeting soldiers at camps during parades or training sessions, and targeting civilians with missiles, land and sea mines," he said.

Minister of Endowments and Guidance Ahmed Attiyah also condemned the "terrorist crime" against Yemeni soldiers, urging religious scholars to "expose the Iran-backed Houthis' agenda".

The Houthis have "blown up mosques and turned them into food and weapons warehouses and areas for consuming qat", he told Al-Mashareq.

The attack is "a terrorist crime that runs against all Islamic and humanitarian values and principles", Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani told Al-Mashareq.

Meanwhile, Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies head Abdul Salam Mohammed said that Yemen's national army has lost more soldiers to Houthi missile attacks on camps than it did on the battlefields against the militia.

The Houthis have "taken advantage of the [Stockholm] Agreement and the stoppage of al-Hodeidah liberation operations to regroup and deploy their loyalists and elements to other fronts", he told Al-Mashareq.

Regional, international condemnation

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, key players in the Arab coalition battling the Houthis in Yemen, on Monday condemned the militia's attack on the military camp.

"Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the terrorist attack carried out by the Houthi militia," the kingdom's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The assault "reflects this terrorist militia's disregard for sacred places and... for Yemeni blood", it said.

The UAE also condemned the "criminal" attack, saying that it "rejects all forms of violence that target security and stability".

Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Arab League also strongly condemned the attack.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths denounced the attack and what he said was the escalation of military activities in three provinces "where airstrikes, missiles and ground attacks reportedly took place".

"I have said before that the hard–earned progress that Yemen has made on de-escalation is very fragile. Such actions can derail this progress," he said.

EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said "all parties should show restraint and engage constructively with the UN Special Envoy to end the conflict".

"The EU will continue supporting the UN in achieving this with all the tools at its disposal," he added.

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Let them kill each other and get it done and over with.