Yemen war on even bloodier course, UN official says

Escalating clashes with Houthi rebels in Marib and government exit from Hodeidah creating an even more dangerous situation in region

Near the southern frontline of Marib, the last remaining government stronghold in northern Yemen. AFP

The UN peace envoy to Yemen warned on Tuesday of a “more fragmented and bloody” conflict in Yemen due to an escalating rebel offensive in oil-rich Marib and the departure of government-aligned forces from the western coast.

Hans Grundberg said he was “deeply alarmed” by worsening clashes between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and forces aligned with the ousted government.

The Houthis have in recent weeks escalated their push on Marib, the last government-held bastion in northern Yemen, while government forces have withdrawn from areas around the strategic, rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

“There is a risk that this could open a new chapter of Yemen’s war that is even more fragmented and bloody,” Mr Grundberg told the UN Security Council via video link.

Thousands of families have been displaced since the rebels seized territory south of Hodeidah vacated by the government-aligned Joint Forces on November 12, said Mr Grundberg.

The same goes for the central Marib region, after a Houthi offensive on the city and the region’s oilfields, he added. Street battles between rival forces would have “terrible consequences for civilians” in the city.

The rebels began a major push to seize Marib city in February and, after a lull, they renewed their offensive in September. Since then, more than 45,000 people have been forced to flee, the UN says. Many had already been uprooted in previous bouts of fighting.

“Restraint, de-escalation and dialogue are urgently needed now,” said Mr Grundberg.

Yemen’s Defence Ministry on Monday said senior military commander Nasser Al Zubiani had been killed in fighting with rebel forces on the outskirts of Marib, the official Saba news agency reported.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa in late 2014.

The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened the following year at the request of the government.

The war has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medicine shortages and more than 130,000 dead.

Updated: December 15th 2021, 12:41 AM