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Fighting in Yemen subsides as Saudi-led coalition reorganises its forces  

FILE PHOTO: Saudi-led coalition spokesperson, Colonel Turki al-Malki speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 26, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/

According to military and government sources, the Saudi-led coalition has deployed freshly formed forces near Marib, Yemen, where fighting has ceased as the warring parties hold their positions in the push over energy-rich territories that has led to the war’s largest escalation in years.

The news: Following losses in Shabwa and Marib at the hands of Emirati-backed forces last month, the Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched unprecedented attacks on alliance member the United Arab Emirates, giving a fresh blow to delayed peace talks.

  • Marib is vital since it is the internationally recognised government’s last stronghold in North Yemen, as well as the country’s only gas-producing region and home to one of the country’s main oilfields.
  • According to three military sources, the UAE-backed Giants Brigade, which consists of southern Salafi Sunni Muslim troops, has halted its assault in Marib after breaking through a Houthi blockade surrounding the capital and securing the way to oil-rich Shabwa in the south.
  • After years of stalemate, the coalition dispatched the Giants Brigade to the front lines in January after Houthi gains, during which the UAE reduced its participation in 2019.
  • According to two government officials, the alliance deployed new battalions formed of northern tribal and Salafi militants near Marib last week, dubbed the ‘Happy Yemen Brigades,’ in a restructure of local forces facing the Shi’ite Houthis.
  • A request for response from the coalition was not returned.

What’s going on: It’s unclear whether the move clears the way for southern fighters to return to positions along the western coast, but it does diminish the Islamist Islah Party’s grip over pro-coalition forces in Marib.

  • The new brigade has yet to enter Marib and is currently engaging Houthi fighters who control the Harad border crossing between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which has been closed since the coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015.
  • Despite being united against the Houthis, who toppled the government from Sanaa in late 2014, the battle is complex, with factions inside the coalition umbrella competing for power.
  • Last month’s escalation, which engulfed the UAE once more and saw the return of lethal coalition air strikes in Yemen, has refocused international attention on a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and triggered a humanitarian crisis.
  • The dispute is widely regarded as a proxy fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran. According to the Houthis, they are fighting against a corrupt regime as well as foreign assault.
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