RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government said on Saturday it had killed 160 Houthi rebels in strikes south of the strategic city of Marib, where loyalists say rebels have made advances.

“We carried out 32 strikes... in Abdiya over the past 24 hours,” the coalition said, cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, adding that “11 military vehicles were destroyed and more than 160 terrorist elements eliminated”.

The rebels rarely comment on losses and the toll could not be independently verified.

The coalition has said that since Monday, more than 700 Iran-backed rebels have been killed in air strikes in the battle for Marib.

Abdiya lies about 100 kilometres from Marib, the internationally recognised government’s last toehold in the north.

Despite the Houthis’ losses in recent days, they are now “at the centre of Abdiya district after a four-week siege”, a loyalist source said.

The official said rebels had “kidnapped, imprisoned and abused” members of Yemeni tribes who supported the pro-government forces.

Almost 20 loyalist troops and tribesmen have been killed in the past 24 hours and 47 wounded, the official added. Another military official gave the same tolls.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdusalam said on Twitter that the rebels had faced “elements linked to Al Qaeda and Daesh (the militant Islamic State group) which are linked to the forces of aggression (the coalition)” in Abdiya.

The coalition did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the allegation.

Yemeni Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani accused the rebels of targeting residential areas.

The Houthis began a major push to seize Marib in February and, after a lull, they have renewed their offensive in recent weeks.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the province this year, nearly 10,000 of them in September alone, according to the UN migration agency.

The UN this week called for a halt to fighting in Abdiya, where it said the movement of aid and some 35,000 people has been “extremely restricted”, including for 17,000 “extremely vulnerable” people who found refuge there from conflict in other areas of Yemen.

With about 139 refugee camps in Marib province, according to the government, hosting around 2.2 million people, many displaced civilians have been caught in the line of fire once again.

The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, 120 kilometres west of Marib, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021



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