The intensified fighting for the northern city leaves at least 50 Houthi rebels and Yemeni pro-government troops dead. The continuing clashes have reportedly claimed around 400 lives in September.

Armed men loyal to the government forces guard a site near the Safer oil fields in Marib, Yemen, on September 12, 2021.
Armed men loyal to the government forces guard a site near the Safer oil fields in Marib, Yemen, on September 12, 2021. (Reuters)

At least 50 Houthi rebels and Yemeni pro-government troops have been killed as fighting intensifies for the city of Marib, a key battleground of the seven-year conflict, according to military sources.

Hundreds of fighters have died this month alone after the Iran-backed rebels renewed their campaign for Marib, the government's last stronghold in the oil-rich north.

"In the past 48 hours, 43 Houthi fighters were killed, mostly in coalition air strikes" west of Marib, a military source told AFP, while another source said at least seven loyalists died in fighting. The rebels rarely announce their casualties.

About 400 people have been reported dead in clashes in September for the northern city, following a lull in fighting in the region.

The Houthis initially escalated their efforts to seize Marib in February, hoping to gain control of the strategically vital city and the region's oil resources.

Marib, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the rebel-held capital Sanaa, sits at a crossroads between the southern and northern regions and is key to controlling Yemen's north.

READ MORE: Yemen's Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death

World's worst humanitarian crisis

The war between the Saudi-led military coalition, which backs the government, and the Houthis has killed tens of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

About 80 percent of Yemen's 30 million people are dependent on aid, in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

READ MORE: UN: Millions of Yemenis are 'marching towards starvation'

Yemen's conflict flared in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led intervention to prop up the internationally recognised government the following year.

This month marks seven years since the rebels took control of Sanaa, with some analysts saying the balance has tilted in favour of the insurgents against the coalition.

While the UN and Washington are pushing for an end to the war, the Houthis have demanded the re-opening of Sanaa airport, closed under a Saudi blockade since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations.

The last talks took place in Sweden in 2018, when the opposing sides agreed to a mass prisoner swap and to spare the city of Hudaida, where the port serves as the country's lifeline.

READ MORE: Yemen crisis is worsening and the world must act now, say aid workers

Source: AFP