‘Houthi missile attack’ kills at least 17 in Yemen’s Marib

Government blames Houthis for attack on petrol station as the group says it only struck a military camp and welcomes investigation into civilian casualties.

Fighters loyal to Yemen's internationally recognised government mans a position near the front line facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country's northeastern province of Marib [File: AFP]

At least 17 people, including a five-year-old girl, have been killed after a ballistic missile targeted the Yemeni city of Marib in an attack the government blamed on the Houthi rebels.

The missile hit a petrol station in the Rawdha neighbourhood, said Ali al-Ghulisi, the provincial governor’s press secretary.

Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani said the attack on Sunday wounded at least five others and all casualties were civilians. He said the attack amounted to a war crime.

The Houthis said they had only struck a military camp. Senior Houthi official, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said the group welcomed an independent investigation into civilian casualties.

In a statement, Cathy Westley, charge d’affaires at the US embassy, called for the “inhuman” violence to end.

The British ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, said on Twitter that serious engagement by the Houthis with UN efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire would “prevent such tragic losses”.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Houthis swept across much of the north and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government into exile.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the following year on the side of the government.

The war has killed more than 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen map showing the city of Marib

Drone attack

The government-run SABA news agency reported that the Houthis also launched an explosive-laden drone shortly after the missile attack.

It said the drone destroyed two ambulances that had rushed to the area.

Since February, the Houthi rebels have been attempting to capture Marib to try to complete their control over the northern part of Yemen.

Saturday’s attack came just a day after the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, accused the Houthis of failing to try to reach an urgently needed ceasefire.

Lenderking’s remarks came in a statement late on Friday after his return from a Middle East diplomatic mission on Yemen that took him to Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Omani delegation in Sanaa

An Omani delegation, meanwhile, arrived in Sanaa for talks with Houthi leaders to advance the peace process, according to Mohammed Abdul-Salam, chief Houthi negotiator.

“We arrived in Sanaa accompanied with a delegation from the Omani Sultanate office in an attempt to prompt the process of settling the humanitarian crisis, as well as the peace process as it serves the nation’s interest and the neighbouring countries interests,” Abdul-Salam said.

The visit came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone on Friday with Omani Foreign Minister Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud al-Busaidi.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies