US envoy calls for ‘end to inhuman violence’ in Marib

Missile attack by Houthis against petrol station kills 21 civilians.
Monday 07/06/2021
A file picture shows a Yemeni government fighter holding a machine gun bullet belt at a frontline position during fighting against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows a Yemeni government fighter holding a machine gun bullet belt at a frontline position during fighting against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen. (REUTERS)

MARIB, Yemen--US and British diplomats urged Houthi forces to end an offensive in northern Yemen on Sunday after at least 21 people were killed in an explosion caused by a Houthi missile strike.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels acknowledged their forces were behind the missile attack which caused the carnage.

But they said on Sunday that their troops were targeting a military base in strategic northern city Marib when they instead hit a nearby petrol station.

Houthi political commander Mohammed Ali al-Houthi tweeted a call for an “independent investigation” into the attack, promising to pay “compensation” if his group were found responsible.

It is rare for the Iran-backed rebels to admit attempting to strike a target near where civilians have died.

“We asked the brothers in the Ministry of Defence (in the unrecognised Houthi government) and they said that they only bombed the base,” said Houthi.

“We welcome and demand that independent committees investigate the matter,” he added.

On Saturday, state media said a strike killed 17 civilians at the petrol station in the city of Marib, the government’s last northern stronghold and blamed the rebels for the attack. Medical sources at the hospital told Reuters on Sunday that the death toll had risen to 21.

Among those killed in Saturday’s explosion near a petrol station in Marib City was a five-year-old girl whose was charred beyond recognition.

Reuters TV footage showed the partially covered bodies of the child and a man, whom the interior ministry said was her father, lying in a military hospital.

The internationally-recognised Yemeni government, which has been battling the Houthi movement for over six years, said the blast, which wrecked the petrol station and gutted cars, was caused by a Houthi missile.

Marib has become the focal point of the war since the Houthis launched an offensive to seize the gas-rich region, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen.

“This inhuman violence must end,” Cathy Westley, charge d’affaires at the US embassy, said in a statement.

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 mired in violence since the Houthis overran government troops in Sana’a in 2014 triggering a Saudi Arabian-led military intervention in March 2015 to “restore legitimacy”.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, including in coalition air strikes and caused what the United Nations says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with 80% of the population reliant on aid.