The Iran-backed militants earlier this month renewed their attacks on the oil-rich Marib province, a government stronghold that has served as a sort of haven for around one million Yemenis who have fled Houthi offensives since the start of the war.

A displaced Yemeni youth stands in the midst of calcined wooden poles after a fire broke out in a shelter in the war-ravaged western Hodeida province, on February 16, 2021.
A displaced Yemeni youth stands in the midst of calcined wooden poles after a fire broke out in a shelter in the war-ravaged western Hodeida province, on February 16, 2021. (AFP)

The US has urged Yemen’s Houthi rebels to halt their attack on the central province of Marib, warning against exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest country.

"The move on Marib is not a new development. It's something that the Houthis have been eyeing intermittently over the last couple of years. But it's clear that they're making a push," said US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking.

"I think our hope is that a combined effort, bringing in certain partners at certain times, backed with a strong, very strong American position, will will essentially shake up the architecture and put us in a much better place to push for that negotiated settlement, which I think we all agree is the only way forward."

Lenderking's comments come shortly after the State Department's revocation of the Houthis' status as a terrorist group took effect.

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The move by President Joe Biden’s administration was welcomed by the UN and aid groups who feared former president Donald Trump’s actions would impede aid deliveries to the country.

Yemen’s war started in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north.

A Saudi-led, US-backed coalition intervened months later to dislodge the rebels and restore the internationally recognised government.

The conflict has killed some 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

"The main thing is, is to is to stop the support for lethal activity by the Houthis, because that is particularly troubling their ability to use sophisticated UAVs, missiles in a variety of, you know, they implanting mines to threaten the international waterways around Yemen and the coast of Oman," said Lenderking.

"If the Houthis want to state their goodwill, they'll push they'll push away from Iran. That's something that they have they themselves have stated they want to be seen as independent of Iran. This is a good, good opportunity for them to show that."

The rebels earlier this month renewed their attacks on the oil-rich province, an anti-Houthi stronghold.

However, they have faced stiff resistance and have not made progress amid heavy air bombing from the Saudi-led coalition.

The latest bout of violence killed dozens of fighters, mostly among the Houthis, and sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis.

READ MORE: Deadly clashes in northern Yemen as Houthis ramp up attacks

Marib province, the location of the ancient Great Marib Dam, has served as a sort of haven for around one million Yemenis who have fled Houthi offensives since the start of the war, the State Department said, citing UN figures.

The rebels have recently intensified attacks using explosive-laden drones and missiles on the kingdom in an apparent attempt to pressure the Saudi-led coalition to stop its air campaign against the rebels in Marib and elsewhere in Yemen.

READ MORE: Saudi-led coalition intercepts Houthi drone as fight for Marib continues

Source: AP