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Ten months on, fighting rages in Yemen’s Marib

December 7, 2021 at 3:15 pm

Yemeni tribesmen hold positions during fighting against the Houthis in Marib city on 27 June 2016 [ABDULLAH AL-QADRY/AFP/Getty Images]

Ten months have passed since the military escalation between Houthi rebels and government forces over Yemen’s central province of Marib, located 173 km north-east of the capital, Sana’a, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Since February, Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks to take control of the oil-rich Marib province, one of the most important strongholds of the legitimate government and home to the headquarters of Yemen’s Defence Ministry.

Houthis have made advances in several of Marib’s districts, such as Abdiya, Al-Jubah, Jabal Murad and Harib, amid huge human and material losses among the warring sides.

The rebels claim to control all of Marib’s districts with the exception of the city centre. But government sources maintain that its forces control the districts of Serwah, Al-Jubah, and Raghwan.

Heavy losses

The ongoing battles in Marib have inflicted heavy human and material losses on both the government forces and Houthis.

On 20 November, Yemeni Information Minister, Muammar Al-Eryani, said at least 15,000 Houthi members have been killed in and around Marib since June.

“The mountains, deserts, valleys and hills of Marib have turned into mass graves for the leaders and elements of the Houthi militia,” the Minister said in statements cited by state news agency, SABA.

READ: Yemen tribal leaders call for comprehensive, immediate ceasefire

On the other hand, unofficial estimates suggest that thousands of government forces have been killed or wounded since the Houthis intensified their attacks on Marib.

Several top government military officials, the latest being Brigadier General Hilal Al-Khalidi, Commander of the Al-Majd Brigade, have lost their lives in battles against the Houthis in Marib.

The Houthi rebels have also lost dozens of military commanders.

Human cost

The fierce battles in the province have caused the displacement of nearly 100,000 people since September 2021, according to the Yemeni government. The UN puts the number of those displaced, during the same time, at more than 45,000 people but estimates the total number since the start of the war to be more than one million displaced people.

The world body reported that most of the displaced persons live in extremely difficult humanitarian conditions and are in dire need of assistance.

In November, the under-secretary of Marib province, Abd Rabbo Miftah, urged the world to provide more support to help ease the humanitarian crisis in Marib.

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For its part, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on 24 November that the 137 displacement sites in Marib had witnessed a ten-fold increase in the number of new arrivals since September, with up to 40 people forced to share one small tent.

Calls for truce

In an attempt to mitigate the conflict, the UN has engaged in shuttle diplomacy with the aim of stopping the escalation in Marib, but to no avail.

Both the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels accuse each other of escalating attacks.

The UN also called on international actors to intervene to stop the escalation, including the US, Britain and the European Union.

On Friday, talks were held between the US envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, and the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley.

The two expressed their deep concern about the escalation in fighting around the city of Marib and elsewhere in Yemen, warning that the escalation will only lead to more suffering for Yemenis.

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Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.

A Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the Yemeni government has worsened the situation, causing one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises, with nearly 80 per cent, or about 30 million, needing humanitarian assistance and protection, and more than 13 million in danger of starvation, according to UN estimates.

A recent United Nations report projected that by the year’s end, the death toll from the seven-year Yemeni conflict will reach 377,000.