ISLAMABAD — Yemen’s government said Sunday its military is preparing for a “mega-fight” in Marib province, where the Shiite rebels fighting it are trying to advance through the country’s second-largest city and control one of its major energy ports.
The rebels and their allies in Yemen’s army have launched a series of attacks recently in Marib. On Saturday, the army responded with airstrikes against rebels and their checkpoints along the eastern edge of the province.
“The return of the homeland’s armed forces to their historic task of defending Yemen from aggression is a basic goal and necessity,” Marib Gov. Qassem al-Shami said in a statement, urging Marib residents to stay in their homes to avoid possible casualties. He gave no timeframe for the assault.
Saleh al-Sammad, the leader of the rebels known as Houthis, told The Associated Press in a text message Sunday that his forces have managed to clear a stretch of land from the army in Marib.
“We have the Americans on the retreat in Marib,” al-Sammad said. The rebels also claim to have completely cut off the port city of Hodeida, on the Red Sea, from the rest of the country.
Hodeida port was once the entry point for nearly half of Yemen’s oil shipments but has been cut off by the fighting between the rebels and the government forces. The blockade severely crimps Yemen’s ability to import food and other goods.