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Yemeni forces get into position during clashes with Houthi rebels Yemeni forces get into position during clashes with Houthi rebels   (AFP or licensors)

Yemen: Heavy clashes in key province leave dozens dead

Heavy fighting in Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province over the weekend leads to several casualties, sparking doubts over peace efforts to end the war.

By Vatican News staff writer

Several dozen people were killed in overnight clashes between government troops and Houthi rebels on Sunday, extending a week of violence in Yemen’s Marib province.

Earlier in February, the Houthi rebels had launched an offensive to seize the oil-rich Marib province situated approximately 120 kilometers east from Sanaa, the country’s capital. The offensive however met stiff resistance and resulted in several casualties mostly from the Houthis.

The latest attack, experts say, has cast doubts over United Nations-led efforts to restart negotiations between the warring sides towards ending years of violence in the country.

Yemen’s long-running conflict

Violence broke out in Yemen in 2014 when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital and a significant portion of the country’s north.

Months later, a Saudi-led, US-backed mission intervened to dislodge the rebels and restore the country’s internationally recognized government.

Yemen’s long-running conflict has so far killed approximately 130,000 people, displaced millions, and led to what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Marib

The rebels have been marching towards Marib since the beginning of 2020, attacking the city and putting the population at risk.

The latest attacks, experts say, are an attempt to wrestle control of Marib, closing off Saudi-Arabia’s southern border and taking control of oil fields that provide leverage in possible peace negotiations.

Reacting to the attacks, the Saudi-led coalition bombed advancing convoys in the desert around Marib. They also sent in ground reinforcements from the government-controlled provinces of Taiz and Shabwa.

News sources report that more than 48 fighters were killed and over 120 were wounded in the past two days, with the majority of the casualties from among the Houthi rebels.

Effects of the conflict

A statement from UN agencies on Friday warned that approximately 400,000 children under-five face the immediate threat of severe or acute malnutrition this year due to the conflict, which has been further exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The UN also expressed concern that 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding mothers were at risk of extreme malnutrition in 2021.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths said last week that he was “extremely concerned” about the hostilities in the country especially at a time of “renewed diplomatic momentum.”

15 February 2021, 13:16