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Yemen: Houthis lose key Marib district after attack on Abu Dhabi

The Giants Brigade thank the Saudi-led coalition for their win against the Houthi rebels in taking the Harib district
Yemenis inspecting the damage after a reported Saudi-led air strike targeting a prison in the Houthi stronghold of Saada, Yemen, on 22 January 2022 (AFP)

Houthi fighters were driven out of a strategic district in Yemen's north by the Emirati-backed Giants Brigade, the Yemen militia said on Tuesday - a day after the rebels' latest missile attack on the United Arab Emirates

The Houthi movement lost the key Harib district, south of Marib, the government's last stronghold in the north they have been fighting to capture for months. 

The Giants Brigade said that "hundreds were killed and wounded on both sides" in battles that lasted for more than two weeks. 

"We thank the Arab coalition for their support for our operations in Shabwah, which were crowned with complete success," the statement added.

There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. 

On Monday, the Houthis attacked Abu Dhabi for a second time in a week, with two ballistic missiles intercepted over the city. US forces based in the Emirati capital's Al Dhafra airbase fired Patriot missiles to help block the attack, US officials said.  

"The UAE reserves the right to respond against these terrorist attacks and such blatant criminal escalation," the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the Houthis targeted "civil areas".

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Intensified clashes 

Since 25 December, the fighting has intensified in Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition, supporting the internationally recognised government, launched a "large-scale" attack on Yemen's capital, Sanaa, after missiles fired by the Houthis killed two people in Saudi Arabia, the first such deaths in three years.

Last week, on 17 January, a suspected drone attack claimed by the Houthis targeted an oil facility in Abu Dhabi, killing three people, one Pakistani national and two Indians. 

The coalition, which includes the UAE, hit Yemen back with a series of air strikes, one of which hit a prison in Saada, resulting in the deaths of at least 90 people. Another strike on al-Hodeidah killed at least three children and forced the country into a four-day internet outage

The UAE, which pulled most of its troops out of Yemen in 2019, still maintains support and training for pro-government forces. 

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted last week that "the UAE had claimed that it had distanced itself from Yemen, but it was recently exposed, contrary to what it claimed." 

He also warned Abu Dhabi that it has two options, to either stop intervening in Yemen or face the consequences of its involvement.

Since the beginning of the seven-year war in Yemen, more than 233,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, according to the United Nations, which has called it one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.