Yemen: Fighting kills 16, endangering peace efforts

Yemeni security officials say at least 16 soldiers have been killed in renewed fighting in the strategic province of Marib.

ByAHMED AL-HAJ Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — More fighting has erupted in central Yemen, killing at least 16 soldiers, security and health officials said Wednesday.

The flare-up in violence comes after diplomats and leaders expressed renewed hope for peace efforts in the war-torn country in the days ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday night, two security officials and a local tribal leader said, after Houthi rebels advanced on the town of Harib in southern Marib province. They said the fighting continued on Wednesday and led to the breakdown of communications in and around the city.

Yemen’s Houthis, backed by Iran, spent much of 2021 trying to take control of the oil-rich province. For part of the year, the Houthis held the city of Harib. But their offensive collapsed late last year when UAE-backed forces helped retake nearby Shabwa province before advancing towards Marib under Saudi-led coalition air cover and eventually retaking Harib and its environs.

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Health and security officials from both sides said the 16 dead were from both sides of the fighting, and another 20 troops were wounded in the battle. They said the violence forced many families to leave their homes hours before the start of the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The Houthis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their military activities in the oil-rich Marib. According to the Houthi Defense Ministry’s statement on Wednesday evening, “the sovereignty of our country and our resources are legal rights that cannot be infringed, and we will sacrifice everything to protect them,” but did not elaborate.

Yemen’s devastating conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government into exile. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, including the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

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A UN-backed ceasefire initially came into effect in April 2022 and raised hopes of a longer pause in fighting, but ended on October 2 after just six months. However, the country’s fighting has largely subsided. Since then, UN High Commissioner for Yemen Hans Grundberg has stepped up internationally-backed efforts to end the eight-year conflict.

An agreement earlier this month between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic ties raised hopes that the countries could pressure their Yemeni allies to begin political talks to end the conflict. Saudi Arabia and Iran are back on opposite sides of the Yemen conflict.