Yemen fighting kills 65 fighters as Houthis push on Marib

The Iran-backed rebels made gains despite losing dozens of fighters

Commander Abdul Rab Al Shaddadi of the Yemen army's Third Military Region, second from left, and Brigadier General Murad Turaiq, second from right, chief of the Yemeni military in Marib and Al Bayda, with their troops in Marib province yesterday. *** Local Caption ***  sp15se-pg3_MAIN.jpg
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Sixty-five fighters are dead after Yemen's Houthi rebels launched a renewed offensive on Marib, the last government stronghold in the country's oil-rich north, a military official said on Thursday.

The Iran-backed rebels attacked pro-government positions south of the strategic city, making progress despite losing dozens of fighters in coalition air strikes.

It was the Houthi's first major offensive on Marib, the key to controlling the region, since June, when 111 fighters on both sides died in three days of clashes.

"Twenty-two pro-government [forces] were killed and 50 others were wounded, while 43 Houthi rebels were also killed in the last 48 hours," a government military official said.

The figures were confirmed by other military and medical sources.

The resurgence in fighting comes after strikes on Yemen's largest airbase, in the country's south, killed at least 30 pro-government fighters on Sunday in the deadliest incident since December.

It also comes just days before the United Nations' new special envoy for Yemen, Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg, takes up his duties.

Yemen's internationally recognised government – backed by a Saudi-led military coalition – and the Houthis have been locked in war since 2014, when the insurgents seized the capital Sanaa.

In February, the Houthis escalated their efforts to take Marib in fighting that has killed hundreds on both sides. Control of the oil-rich north would strengthen the Houthis bargaining position in peace talks.

While the UN and Washington are pushing for an end to the war, the Houthis have demanded the re-opening of Sanaa airport, closed by Saudi Arabia since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations.

As well as the bloody offensive in Marib, the Houthis have also stepped up drone and missile strikes on Saudi targets, including its oil facilities.

In June, the former UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council that his efforts over the past three years to end the war had been "in vain".

The fighting has killed tens of thousands and left some 80 per cent of Yemenis dependent on aid, in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The war has also displaced millions of people and left many on the brink of famine.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 8:34 AM