Fierce fighting for Yemen’s strategic Marib city has killed 70 pro-government and Huthi rebel fighters over the past 24 hours, with battles raging on three fronts, loyalist military officials said yesterday.
The Huthis have been trying to seize Marib, the capital of an oil-rich region and the government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north, since February.
Two officials from pro-government forces told AFP that the rebels were mounting a concerted push that had left 26 loyalist soldiers dead as well as 44 from Huthi ranks. The rebels rarely disclose their losses.
The new toll adds to 53 killed on both sides in the previous 24 hours, according to loyalist military officials.
The other official said that warplanes from the Saudi-led military coalition, which entered the Yemen conflict to support the government in 2015, launched airstrikes that “destroyed 12 Huthi military vehicles, including four tanks and a cannon.”
However, the Saudi firepower does not seem to have halted the rebel offensive.
The Iran-backed Huthis in late 2014 overran the capital Sanaa, 120 kilometres to the west of Marib, along with much of northern Yemen. The loss of Marib would be a heavy blow for the Yemeni government, currently based in the southern city of Aden, and for its Saudi backers.
It could also lead to humanitarian disaster, as vast numbers of civilians displaced from fighting elsewhere have sought refuge in Marib.