Houthis fail to launch missile on Marib province

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

A Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committees, who supports forces loyal to the government, keeps watch at Nahm district on January 30th, 2018. [Abdullah al-Qadry/AFP]

A Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committees, who supports forces loyal to the government, keeps watch at Nahm district on January 30th, 2018. [Abdullah al-Qadry/AFP]

The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) on Sunday (January 26th) failed to fire a ballistic missile on Marib province, with the missile exploding upon its launch from Shamlan, a residential area north-west of Sanaa.

The failed attempt killed at least one person and injured three others, eyewitnesses said.

The explosion could be heard throughout northern Sanaa, al-Arabiya reported.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have gained ground east of Sanaa, in what the Yemeni defence minister acknowledged as a "tactical withdrawal" by government forces.

As of Sunday, the Houthis had advanced on the Nahm front, north-east of Sanaa, taking over parts of the district and a strategic road that links Sanaa to Marib and al-Jawf provinces.

They also aim to surround al-Hazm, al-Jawf's provincial capital, from the north and west, AFP reported.

The Houthis control large parts of al-Jawf.

Renewed fighting allowed the militia to retake Yemeni forces' positions, Yemeni commanders told AFP.

"Some of these positions had been under government control for three years," one of the commanders said, on condition of anonymity.

'Tactical pullout'

Defence Minister Gen. Mohammed Ali al-Maqdishi recognised the Houthis' advance in Nahm, but said it was a "tactical withdrawal from some positions", during a meeting on Friday with Yemeni commanders.

Yemeni forces would be redeployed to open a new front against the Houthis, al-Maqdishi said, claiming that "the battle to liberate Sanaa has become inevitable".

"The National Army has carried out a tactical pullout from areas in Nahm to lure Houthis in, and that was why they advanced on the Nahm front," said Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Abdullah Majali.

The Houthis mobilised hundreds of fighters to the Nahm front, he told Al-Mashareq, noting that "they have suffered heavy human losses in the ongoing battles".

The Yemeni army is fighting fierce battles and has seized parts of Mount Haylan which overlooks Marib province, he said.

It also is making progress in Sarwah, west of Marib, and is engaged in intense battles on the Nahm front, he added.

Houthis losing fighters

"The Houthis have lost dozens of their commanders and elements in recent battles," said Majali, urging citizens not to respond to Houthis' mobilisation calls to head to the fronts because "those are calls to death".

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq the Houthis are stepping up mobilisation efforts via mosques and media outlets to recruit more fighters.

They have even moved some of their forces from checkpoints in Sanaa to the fronts, he said.

Sanaa neighbourhoods are filled with the bodies of Houthi fighters who were killed on the battlefronts, he said, while Sanaa hospitals are in emergency mode to receive wounded fighters.

The Houthis "are sacrificing our sons' blood to serve Iran's interests", Yemeni diplomat Abdul Wahab Tawaf told Al-Mashareq.

The militia's advance in Nahm has cost hundreds of Yemenis their lives in return for "a few kilometres" that it can lose again in the coming days, he said.

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Ansarullah is victorious.