© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted gun at a front line position during the battle against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen, March 28, 2021. Picture from March 28, 2021. REUTERS / Ali Owidha / File Photo
By Mohammed Ghobari
ADEN (Reuters) – At least eight people were killed in explosions that rocked the Yemeni city of Marib when the minister of information said they were rocket and drone strikes by Houthi forces trying to invade the gas-rich region.
Minister Muammar al-Iryani wrote in a Twitter post that the Houthis had fired two ballistic missiles and two armed drones and hit a mosque, a commercial center and a women’s correctional facility, as well as ambulances rushing to the scene.
He put the initial death toll at eight, including women, and said 27 people were wounded. Two medical sources told Reuters that the hospital had received five dead and more than 15 injured.
There has been no confirmation from the Iranian-allied Houthi movement, which has launched an offensive to conquer the last stronghold of the internationally recognized government in the north of the country on the Arabian Peninsula.
An army spokesman previously told Al Hadath TV that the missiles had hit a residential area and commercial market. He said the Houthis launched two drones, but one was shot down and the other exploded in midair.
“These are the strongest explosions we have heard in Marib in four years,” resident Abdulsalam Ghaleb told Reuters.
At least 17 people were killed in an explosion near a gas station in Marib earlier this month. The government blamed a Houthi missile for this, but the group said it hit a military camp.
“This (Thursday) dangerous escalation confirms that the Houthi terrorist militia do not understand the language of dialogue and do not believe in peace,” said Iryani, referring to the United Nations-led peace efforts.
Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene months later.
The coalition said Thursday it destroyed a Houthi drone that was fired at southern Saudi Arabia, state television reported, the latest of frequent cross-border attacks.
The United Nations, with the support of the United States, is pushing for a ceasefire and for the Houthis to end their offensive in Marib, where around 1 million internally displaced people live.
It has also called on the coalition to lift sea and air restrictions on areas held by the Houthis who say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
The conflict, seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has created what the United Nations believes is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
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