Houthi fighters take full control of the Kassara region and advance on the western front lines despite air attacks.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels made significant gains in the battle for the last government stronghold in the north, advancing near the center of the town of Marib despite heavy casualties, military sources said on Sunday.
The rebels have taken full control of the northwestern Kassara battlefield and advanced on the western front lines despite airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition that backs the Yemen government, they said. .
Marib and its surrounding oil fields form the last major pocket of government territory in the north, with the rest under rebel control, including the capital Sana’a.
Intense fighting has killed at least 65 people in the past two days alone, including 26 loyalist members, including four officers, government sources told AFP news agency.
The Iranian-aligned Houthis rarely disclose their own losses.
With the Houthis taking control of the Kassara front, the battle moved to the Al-Mil region, 6 km (4 miles) from central Marib and its population center, they said.
However, the mountains around Al-Mil remain a formidable barrier for the rebels who launched their campaign for the town of Marib in February.
Government sources said the Houthis had poured in hundreds of reinforcements in recent days to make the gains, resorting to motorcycles after the coalition targeted their military vehicles.
The camps are overflowing
The loss of Marib would be a blow to the internationally recognized Yemeni government and to Saudi Arabia, which has supported it militarily since March 2015 after the capture of Sana’a by the rebels.
About 140 camps have sprung up in the surrounding desert to provide basic shelter for up to two million displaced people, according to the Yemeni government.
Escalating hostilities have displaced 13,600 people in Marib this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency, straining the city in a second wave of coronavirus.
Lacking clean water and electricity, makeshift settlements are overflowing and camp residents say they have been regularly bombed by the Houthis.
The rebels have also stepped up missile and drone attacks against neighboring Saudi Arabia in recent months, demanding the opening of Yemen’s airspace and ports. They rejected a Saudi ceasefire proposal.
On Sunday, the Houthis said they attacked and struck King Khalid’s airbase in Khamis Mushait with a drone in southern Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi-led coalition said they intercepted and destroyed it.
The US administration of President Joe Biden is stepping up efforts to end the disastrous conflict, warning that the suffering will only end when a political solution is found.