SANAA (Dispatches) – Yemeni forces have taken control of the hills and mountains around the southern part of Ma’rib, which is viewed as the gate to the strategic city, unofficial sources said on Saturday.
The development came after they captured a key military base occupied by Saudi militants loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the country’s strategic oil-rich province of Ma’rib, and moved closer to the heart of energy reserves in the area.
Local military sources said army troops and their allies launched intense attacks in the Al-Jubah district of Ma’rib, and managed to seize Umm Reesh base following fierce fighting with Saudi mercenaries on Friday.
The sources said the Yemeni forces raided the military base from various directions, and forced the Saudi-backed militants to withdraw from the area.
The base includes training centers, and is the last bastion for Saudi-sponsored forces in the southern part of Ma’rib.
The withdrawal of Saudi mercenaries from Um Reesh base came after the Yemeni army soldiers and Popular Committees fighters targeted the military site with ballistic missiles and heavy artillery rounds, the sources said.
The fall of Umm Reesh is set to accelerate the advances of Yemeni army forces and their allies towards Safar region, where oil and gas fields of Ma’rib province are located.
The Yemeni military sources said fierce clashes between the two sides continue in several highlands overlooking Al-Khashina base.
The final push to liberate Ma’rib came after reports that the Biden administration had given its first approval to sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia despite claiming to recalibrate relations with the kingdom.
A high-ranking member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council on Friday denounced the U.S. for approving sale of air-to-air missiles worth $650 million to Saudi Arabia.
Muhammad Ali al-Houthi said the major weapons deal with the Persian Gulf kingdom shows that the administration of President Joe Biden is not committed at all to peace in Yemen, and in contrast to its support for Saudi Arabia.
The deal clearly shows Washington’s lack of seriousness and credibility to stop the ongoing devastating war on Yemen, that will adversely prolong starvation and suffering of the Yemeni nation, he tweeted.
In a statement on Thursday, the Pentagon said the U.S. State Department had approved the sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh.
It added that Massachusetts-based firm Raytheon would be the “principal contractor” for the sale of AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles
(AMRAAM) and related equipment.
The sale comes months after Biden said he would end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in Yemen, including “relevant arms sales.”
Saudi Arabia, backed by the U.S. and regional allies, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the Hadi government back to power and crushing Ansarullah. The war has left hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead, and displaced millions more. It has also destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and spread famine and infectious diseases.
Yemeni armed forces and the Popular Committees have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.