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The fighting in Yemen, similarly to other battlefields in the Middle East is heating up in 2021.
The Ansar Allah, or the Houthis, as they are colloquially known, have began pushing towards Marib city. The province and the settlement itself are the last Saudi-led coalition stronghold in the relatively calm central region. If Marib city is captured by the Houthis, they would be allowed to carry out even more attacks and operations in Saudi Arabia’s southern regions. These regions are largely depopulated because of the war that Riyadh and its allies began almost 6 years ago.
Starting on February 17th, the Houthis targeted Saudi-led force’s positions near Marib City, as a harbinger of what is to come. That is when the offensive began, with the Ansar Allah rapidly capturing various smaller villages en route to Marib City and the historical Marib Dam. The Saudi-led coalition attempted to halt the advance, by shelling the column and the ditches that were dug to siege the surroundings of Marib. After more than a day of heavy clashes, the Houthis came out victorious, capturing the Marib Dam.
It was short-lived however, for on February 20th, the Houthis withdrew from the Dam, as well as from the villages of Hamajirah and al-Zour. At this point, it turned into a back and forth, with the Houthis taking control of the village of Arak, south of the Marib Dam. And have since prepared to launch a new offensive.
In preparation for this Ansar Allah released a hype video, showing the most epic combat footage from the year 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic year was of significant success for the Houthis on the battlefield, and of setbacks for Saudi Arabia.
Still, the Saudi-led coalition continue its airstrikes on Houthi positions all along the contact line and beyond it. The al-Hudaydah ceasefire is also seldom adhered to.
If the Marib Dam is lost, and then subsequently so is Marib City, this spells bad tidings for Riyadh.The Houthis are likely to keep pushing, and they have had the upper hand on the battlefield for a while now.
If the situation deteriorates further for the Saudi-led coalition this would allow for the Ansar Allah to carry out more combat operations on Saudi Arabian soil. This is an opportune moment due to the Biden Administration formally declaring its end of support for the Saudi-led coalition’s crusade in Yemen. But it should be taken with a grain of salt, as it is likely simply an international policy charade.