Yemeni officials say heavy clashes between government forces and Houthi rebels over crucial central town have killed more than 130 fighters in past two days
SANAA, Yemen – Two days of fierce clashes between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels over a crucial central city have killed more than 130 fighters, most of them rebels, officials said on Tuesday.
Yemen has been rocked by civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis captured the capital Sana’a and much of the north of the country, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government to flee south, then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition went to war in March 2015, backed by the United States, in an attempt to bring Hadi back to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and fighting on the ground, the war has largely deteriorated to a stalemate and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The rebels renewed their attacks on Marib earlier this year, an offensive that threatens to exacerbate a dire situation in a city that is already home to hundreds of thousands of Yemeni displaced people. The Houthis have tried for years to take Marib to complete their control over the northern half of the country, but have met stiff resistance.
The latest fighting has taken place south of Marib where rebels are trying to break down government defenses, according to tribal leaders, the government and rebel officials. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, and elders spoke anonymously because they feared reprisals.
The Yemeni military said its forces, aided by tribal fighters and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, killed and injured dozens of Houthi fighters and destroyed vehicles in violent clashes around Marib in in the last 24 hours.
Rebels typically attack with waves of fighters charging into government lines, becoming easy targets for Saudi-led coalition warplanes. The Houthi media office said the Saudi-led coalition launched more than 30 airstrikes against their fighters around Marib on Monday.