Dozens killed as battle for Yemen’s Marib flares

445

DUBAI, June 20, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Renewed battles between government forces
and Huthi rebels over the strategic city of Marib in northern Yemen have left
47 dead, including 16 pro-government forces, military sources said Saturday.

The Iran-backed rebels are seeking to seize control of Marib and its
surrounding oil fields, the Yemeni government’s last stronghold in the north
after six years of fighting that has plunged the country into a humanitarian
crisis.

Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire in Yemen had intensified, in
parallel with the fierce campaign for control of Marib, which has left
thousands dead on both sides.

But with no agreement in sight, the fighting has flared again after a lull
over the past month.

Sources with the internationally recognised government told AFP that 16
soldiers from their ranks were killed, including six officers, on Saturday.
The insurgents rarely report their casualties.

The Huthis “launched attacks on various fronts, in an attempt to advance,
but they were mostly repelled,” one of the officials told AFP.

The sources said that warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition, which
supports the beleaguered government, launched air strikes on rebel sites.

The Huthis said on their Al Masirah television channel that the coalition
had also carried out 17 air strikes in different parts of Marib province.

The renewed fighting over Marib comes after the failure of a diplomatic
push by the United Nations, the United States and regional nations to secure
a ceasefire in Yemen.

The outgoing UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths on Tuesday told the
Security Council his own efforts over the past three years to end the war
have been “in vain”.

“It is with deep regret that I report today that the parties have not
overcome their differences,” he said.

Yemen has been devastated by the civil war which broke out in 2014, and
millions of civilians are on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

The Huthis have repeatedly demanded the re-opening of the airport in the
rebel-held northern capital of Sanaa before agreeing to any ceasefire.

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

Saudi air defences on Saturday intercepted and destroyed 11 drones fired
at the kingdom by Huthi rebels in Yemen, Saudi state media reported, quoting
the coalition battling the insurgents.

“The interception operations were successful,” the coalition said in a
statement, adding that the drones were packed with explosives and seven were
neutralised in Yemeni air space.