After losing five children, Sheikh Raqeeb was killed in the battle on Friday
Jid’an tribesmen repel Houthi incursion into Majzar district of Marib
Equipped with tanks and armored vehicles, on Friday Houthi fighters attempted to penetrate deeper into Marib governorate, launching an attack in the Al-Lessan area of Majzar district, in northwest Marib. The district is largely populated by tribesmen from Jid’an, one of the main tribes of Marib and one of the largest in Yemen, and the Houthis’ incursion has prompted locals to take up arms in defense of their territory.
Tribesmen from Jid’an are partnered with Yemen’s national army against the Houthis. The battle over the weekend succeeded in repelling the Houthis’ attack, and reportedly caused the group significant loss of life and equipment. It is expected that further clashes are likely, however, as the Houthis are believed to be preparing for a larger-scale operation to capture the oil-rich governorate.
Hamad Nasser Raqeeb, a 60-year-old sheikh in the Jid’an tribe, was among the tribesmen fighting against the Houthis in Majzar district on Friday. Though several decades older than most of the fighters, a local tribesman told Almasdar Online that Sheikh Raqeeb managed to blow up a Houthi tank with an RPG and said the elder sheikh was one of the local heroes defending Marib.
Majzar district is of crucial strategic importance, as it borders Sana’a governorate to the west and Al-Jawf to the north. While there are three routes between government-controlled Marib city and Houthi-controlled Sana’a, the road through Majzar is the largest and it was the main pre-war route linking the two cities. The district itself is impoverished, and was connected to the electricity grid only about one year ago, when Marib’s local authority was expanding state services amid a relative calm.
This is not the first time the Jid’an tribe has taken up arms against the Houthis.
In late 2014, popular resistance forces (who would later be incorporated into the military) and local tribesmen fought the Houthis in Majzar district, who at the time were expanding rapidly after capturing the capital Sana’a. By early 2015 the Houthis succeeded in taking over much of the district, including parts of the road network linking Marib, Sana’a, and Al-Jawf. At that time, tribesmen were the driving force of the popular resistance against the Houthis, and Sheikh Hamad Raqeeb and his sons played a prominent role in the battle.
While the tribesmen succeeded in preventing the Houthis from capturing the district, the costs of the fighting were devastating for the local community, and Sheikh Raqeed in particular. Over the past five years, the sheikh lost four sons and one grandson to the war against the Houthis: Abdullah, Abdul Khaliq, Abdulrahman, Mohammed, and his grandson Riyadh Saleh.
On Friday, Sheikh Raqeeb was killed during the battle against the Houthis. Taha Bin Ka’lan, a member of Jid’an, recalled the last moments of the late sheikh’s life, saying he spoke to the young tribesmen who were fighting next to Sheikh Raqeeb, and that they asked him to return to his home after the Houthis were defeated but he refused and blew up a Houthi tank before he lost his own life. According to Bin Ka’lan, the elder sheikh refused to back down and said he wanted to meet his children, whom he missed dearly.