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The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen said on Saturday it had killed 160 Houthi rebels in new raids south of the strategic city of Marib, where the battle has left hundreds dead in recent days.

Despite the heavy losses, the rebels are advancing and are now “at the center of the al-Abdiya sector after a siege that lasted four weeks,” a loyalist source told AFP on Saturday (October 16th). “We carried out 32 strikes in al-Abdiya (…) 11 military vehicles were destroyed and more than 160 terrorist elements eliminated”, indicated the coalition, quoted by the official Saudi agency SPA.

The last government stronghold in northern Yemen largely dominated by the Houthis, Marib, the capital of the province with the same name, is at the heart of a fierce battle. The Houthis launched a campaign to take the city in February and have recently stepped up their offensive. The coalition has responded since Monday with a volley of airstrikes that have killed, according to it, more than 700 insurgents.

These figures could not be verified from an independent source and the Houthis rarely communicate about the victims in their ranks.

Of the very murderous last days

According to the loyalist source, the rebels “kidnapped, imprisoned and mistreated” members of tribes who supported pro-government forces. Nearly 20 members of the loyalist forces and these tribes have been killed in the past 24 hours and 47 have been injured, he said. Another military official confirmed this toll to AFP.

For his part, one of the rebel spokespersons, Mohammed Abdesselem, said on Twitter that the rebels had confronted “elements linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, themselves linked to the forces of aggression (the coalition, editor’s note) ”in the al-Abdiya sector. The coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani accused him of the rebels of targeting residential areas.

Yemen has since 2014 been the scene of a war between pro-government forces and the Houthis, rebels close to Iran who control much of the north of the country, including the capital Sana’a. Since 2015, the Saudi-led military coalition has intervened to support loyalist forces. In seven years of war, tens of thousands of people have been killed, most of them civilians, and millions have been displaced, according to international organizations.

The international community is trying in vain to reach a peaceful resolution of this conflict which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN. Almost 80% of the Yemeni population rely on humanitarian aid to survive. On Thursday, the United Nations called for an end to the fighting in the Marib region in order to be able to provide humanitarian aid, crucial for the civilian populations, in particular the displaced.

Nearly 10,000 people were displaced in September alone in Marib province, according to the International Organization for Migration.

With AFP

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