By Edward Yeranian
Saudi coalition warplanes Saturday attacked Houthi forces trying to advance around the government-controlled city of Marib. west of Sanaa, Yemen. Saudi warplanes also launched multiple airstrikes overnight on Houthi targets.
Houthi forces claimed to have captured strategic high ground Friday outside Marib in a series of attacks aimed at wresting the city and surrounding oil-producing regions from the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But pro-Saudi media said the Houthis took heavy casualties, and it was not clear if they were any closer to the city.
The Saudi-led coalition also said it intercepted an armed Houthi drone that was trying overnight to attack the southern Saudi town of Khamis Musheit. A series of Houthi missiles or drones caused minor damage in an attack Friday on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Riyadh.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Saudi media the alleged Houthi attacks on Aramco appeared to be coming from Iran, not Yemen, and that Iranian weapons were being used in the attacks.
“All of the missiles and drones that came into Saudi Arabia are Iranian-manufactured or Iranian-supplied. Several came from the north and several came from the sea. The U.N. laid responsibility [for a previous attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq] on the Iranians, as have other countries,” he said.
Houthi military spokesman Colonel Yahya Saree told the group’s Al Masirah TV on Friday that the missile and drone attacks on Saudi territory would continue as long as a blockade continued to be imposed on his forces.
The Houthis and forces loyal to the Yemeni government have been trying to capture ground from each other in both Marib province and in the country’s third-largest city of Taez. The Houthis reportedly have been blocking roads into Taez.
Analyst Salem al Yami told Saudi media that weeks of Houthi attacks on Marib city had many Yemenis worried that a Houthi victory in the city would give the Iranians a foothold in the region.
He said that the loss of Marib would be a major loss for Yemen since the Houthis represent only a small part of the population, and that the Iranians also would stand to gain control of strategic resources in the country.
Also Saturday, the Houthis said they had attacked the airport in the southern Saudi city of Abha. It was not clear if there was any damage.
Pro-Hadi government forces said they had inflicted serious casualties on the Houthis during the past 24 hours, killing at least 30 fighters. A number of children have also been killed in recent fighting, according to the U.N.