General Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the international coalition in Yemen, has announced a major offensive against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels with the aim of "purifying" the country and establishing security, prosperity and growth. "Yemen deserves much in all areas," he added. The Saudi military official made the remarks during a press conference in Shabwa alongside the provincial governor, Awadh bin Al-Wazer. The region, which has significant oil reserves, has been "liberated" from Houthi control 10 days after Yemeni forces, backed by the Riyadh-led coalition, launched 'Operation Southern Storm'.
After taking Shabwa, the Arab military alliance will focus on 'Operation Free Happy Yemen'. This mission, which began in the early hours of Tuesday morning, targets "all fronts" in the country and is supported by Yemeni allied troops, such as the Amalika Forces and the Giants Brigades. The latter have already announced that they are heading towards Marib, where they claim to control "large areas in the Harib district" while the Houthis "are suffering heavy losses".
Marib has become a major concern for the Arab coalition and the centre of Yemen's war after the Houthis began an offensive against the city in February. Although the forces of Saudi-backed and internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi control much of the city, the rebels have seized nearby oil and gas-rich positions. This week, however, the international coalition announced a series of bombing raids that have killed 200 Houthis in the districts of Usailan, Bayhan and Al Ain.
Also, as reported by Al Arabiya television, Riyadh-led forces destroyed at least 20 military vehicles and drone control units of the insurgent militias. However, the Giants Brigade has also reported casualties among its troops. The Saudi and Emirati-backed forces have lost 70 fighters in the fighting over Marib. On the other hand, the Houthis continue to control Sana'a, as well as several air areas in the north and west. Taking advantage of Shia militia losses in other areas such as Marib and Shabwa, coalition fighter jets have intensified their attacks on the Yemeni capital.
The war over Marib, in addition to fuelling the conflict that has been raging since 2014, has accentuated Yemen's humanitarian crisis, the worst in the world according to the United Nations. The city is home to three million people, in addition to almost one million refugees from other parts of the country. For this reason, according to figures from the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 137 camps for displaced people have been set up in and around the city, although the IOM warns that there are not enough. "We call on the international community, as well as donors who can contribute, to provide the assistance that is required because it is a very big challenge," Sharon Wanga, one of the coordinators of the al-Samya camp, told Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Yemen correspondent.
Despite the critical situation in the country, international aid has decreased compared to previous years. What is more, the aid that does arrive is often looted by both sides in the conflict. According to a related UN report, while the Houthis diverted at least $1.8 billion in humanitarian aid in 2019, the Yemeni government engages in money laundering and corruption practices that negatively affect access to adequate food supplies for Yemenis. In this vein, the World Food Programme (WFP), accused "all sides of the conflict" of stealing humanitarian aid intended for the population.