A missile attack by Shi’ite Houthi rebels hit a Yemeni army base in Marib on Saturday killing 70 troops and wounding scores more. Yemeni officials confirmed the attack at the base 70 miles (115 km) east of the capital of Sanaa.
The soldiers were gathered in a mosque conducting evening prayers when the missiles hit. According to the official SABA news agency, Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” attack.
“The disgraceful actions of the Houthi militia without a doubt confirm its unwillingness to (achieve) peace because it knows nothing but death and destruction and is a cheap Iranian tool in the region,” Hadi said.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Ekhbariya television quoted sources as saying the assault was carried out with ballistic missiles and drones, killing 60 military personnel and wounding dozens of others. That number was raised to 70 as officials at the Marib city hospital updated it since more and more victims were being treated there.
Yemeni officials expect the death toll to rise even further, as many of the victims were badly burned before being transported to area hospitals. The fighting in Yemen has gotten increasingly deadly in recent days. Saudi-led government forces have also been trading artillery fire with rebels. A recent Saudi attack killed 22 people east of Sanaa. This had been a relatively quiet area until now.
Wadah Dobish, a spokesman for the Yemeni government, said that south of the port of Hodeida, heavy artillery fire from both sides killed seven people including two civilians. The government accused the rebels of using indiscriminate mortar fire as several residential neighborhoods were hit.
This latest fighting in Hodeida breaks a ceasefire that had been negotiated by the U.N. around Hodeida, the main port where humanitarian supplies and food are being brought in.
The fighting in Yemen has been going on since 2014 when Houthi rebels backed by Iran overran the northern area of the country including the capital city of Sanaa.
In 2015, a Saudi/U.A.E.-led coalition that supports the internationally recognized national government of President Hadi began a devastating air campaign targeting the Houthi rebels and attempting to drive them back. That air campaign has also been supported by the United States which provided air-to-air refueling and intelligence to the coalition. Hadi’s government is now centered in the southern city of Aden.
The fighting has killed over 100,000 people and has displaced millions of citizens. It has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world according to the United Nations. The country is on the brink of famine.
The Houthi Rebels are subject to an arms embargo. Iran has repeatedly denied that it’s supplying them with weapons.