A senior Yemeni official has said the country’s armed forces are seeking to liberate the central province of Ma’rib after taking control of the neighboring strategic province of al-Jawf, which borders Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television channel, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, said “our victory in the al-Jawf province is almost certain”.
“We have now set our eyes on the battle for Ma’rib,” he added.
Yemeni forces, along with Houthi fighters from the popular Ansarullah movement, seized al-Hazm, the capital city of the neighboring al-Jawf province earlier this week.
The capture of the strategic city of al-Hazm has been described as a potentially “game-changing” development, enabling the Yemeni forces to surround the strategic oil-rich Ma’rib province.
Al-Bukhaiti added that the security of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Riyadh’s main ally in its war on Yemen, can only be guaranteed when Yemen’s sovereignty is respected.
The Yemeni forces have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks against both Persian Gulf countries in response to the five-year war aimed at reinstating Saudi-allied former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crushing the popular Ansarullah movement.
Al-Bukhaiti also urged the Islah party, which is the backbone of Hadi’s so-called government in the port city of Aden, to accept a political settlement offered by Ansarullah.
If the Islah party does not enter “the political process”, Ansarullah will proceed to negotiate directly with individual Yemeni tribes to hasten a political settlement, the senior Yemeni official said.
Infighting erupts in Aden
The Yemeni ground advancements come as local sources reported heavy clashes in the Sheikh Othman and Dar Sa’d districts in Aden.
The clashes took place between Emirati-backed southern separatists and Saudi-led mercenaries as a number of explosions were reported in the city’s old market.
Four civilians were reportedly killed in the clashes.
Months of bloody infighting broke out between the two groups last summer, resulting in heavy casualties for both sides before a power-sharing settlement was signed in November.
The new round of clashes comes after UAE-backed separatists announced that they had pulled out of committees implementing the agreement in January.
Also on Thursday, Yemen’s al-Masirah satellite network reported that Saudi jets had launched at least 14 air raids on the Harz and al-Marzaq districts of the northwestern Hajjah province.
Numerous breaches of an ongoing ceasefire were also reported in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, with Saudi-led forces targeting residential areas in the city.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi war has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Yemen since 2015.
The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are now in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.