Huthis advance on Yemen’s Marib after seizing mountain

DUBAI (AFP) – Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels have made major advances on Marib city after seizing a strategic mountain in clashes that caused dozens of casualties on both sides, government sources said yesterday.

The Huthis and the internationally recognised government have been locked in a power struggle since 2014, when the rebels seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Since last month, the rebels have been pushing to seize Marib, the government’s last northern stronghold and the capital of an oil-rich region.

The Huthi rebels “took control of Mount Hilan overlooking the city, after fighting which left dozens of dead and wounded on both sides”, one of the sources told AFP.

“Marib is in danger,” another source said, adding the loss of the mountain posed “a threat to Marib’s first line of defence”.

The loss of Marib would be a huge blow for the Yemeni government, but would also threaten catastrophe for civilians, including one million displaced people sheltering in desolate camps in the surrounding desert.

The Huthis had “cut the supply lines of some fronts and are now within firing range of the Al-Mashjab line west of Marib city”, the source added.

A military coalition intervened in 2015, enforcing a naval and air blockade to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the rebels from Iran – allegations Tehran denies.

The rebels say any ceasefire agreement can only begin after the blockade of Yemen is lifted.

The news of their advance came just hours after the United Nations (UN) Security Council condemned the “escalation” of armed clashes around Marib city and warned of a worsening humanitarian catastrophe.

The fighting “places one million internally displaced persons at grave risk and threatens efforts to secure a political settlement when the international community is increasingly united to end the conflict,” it said.