Clashes intensify in key Yemen province, 140 fighters killed

SANAA, Yemen (AP) – Fighting between Yemeni government forces and the country’s Houthi rebels in central Marib province has killed at least 140 fighters this week, tribal leaders and security officials said Thursday.

The most intense clashes have taken place in the past 24 hours in the largely government-controlled southern province of Abdiya and al-Jubah districts, they said.

The Iranian-backed Shia Houthis have stepped up their push into the strategic province in recent weeks while stepping up cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition that is fighting on the government side against the Houthis.

The escalation comes as government forces launched a counteroffensive to combat areas that had been overrun by rebels last week, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not. allowed to speak to the media. Tribal leaders have asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Yemen has been in the throes of civil war since 2014, when the Houthis captured the capital, Sana’a, and much of the country’s north, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee south and then to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition went to war in March 2015, backed by the United States, in an attempt to bring the government back to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and fighting on the ground, the war has largely deteriorated to a stalemate and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Houthis have been trying for years to take the oil-rich Marib to complete their control over the northern half of Yemen. In recent months, they have accelerated their push. The fighting has produced a large number of fighters from both sides in Marib in recent weeks.

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