Gunmen loyal to government forces guard a site near the Safer oil fields in Marib in a file photo.
Image Credit: REUTERS

DUBAI: At least 50 Al Houthi militants and Yemeni pro-government troops killed as fighting escalates for the town of Marib, a key battleground in the seven-year conflict, military sources said on Sunday .

Hundreds of people have died this month alone after the Iranian-backed militia renewed its campaign for Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the oil-rich north.

In the past 48 hours, 43 Al Houthi militants have been killed, mostly in coalition airstrikes west of Marib, a military source told AFP, while another source said. that at least seven worshipers died in the fighting. The militia rarely announces its losses.

Around 400 people were reportedly killed in clashes in September for the northern city, following a lull in fighting in the region.

The Al Houthis initially stepped up efforts to capture Marib in February, hoping to gain control of the strategically vital city and the region’s oil resources.

Marib, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Sana’a, the militia-held capital, sits at a crossroads between the southern and northern regions and is key to control of northern Yemen.

About 80 percent of Yemen’s 30 million people depend on aid, in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The conflict in Yemen erupted in 2014 when Al Houthis seized the capital Sana’a, prompting the Saudi-led Arab intervention to support the internationally recognized government the following year.

This month marks seven years since the rebels took control of Sana’a, with some analysts saying the balance is tilting in favor of the insurgents against the coalition.

As the UN and Washington push for an end to the war, Al Houthis demanded the reopening of Sana’a airport, closed under Saudi blockade since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations.

The last talks took place in Sweden in 2018, when opposing sides agreed to a massive prisoner swap and spare the city of Hodeida, where the port is the country’s lifeline.

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