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Fighting in Yemen's Marib escalates, as 53 killed in 24 hours

A military source said Houthis have made small territorial gains but do not yet threaten Marib city itself
A fighter with forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government holds a position against Houthi fighters in Yemen's northeastern province of Marib, on 6 April 6 2021 (AFP)

At least 53 pro-government forces and Houthi fighters were killed in the past 24 hours, as the battle for Yemen's oil-rich Marib region escalates, loyalist military officials said on Saturday.

The Houthis have been pushing to capture the key region of Marib, the government's last northern stronghold, since February.

"The rebels have managed to seize a bit of territory" in the latest fighting northwest of the city, a pro-government military source said, adding that they did not threaten the city of Marib itself.

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The same source said 22 government soldiers, including five officers, had been killed, along with 31 Houthi fighters. 

The Houthis in 2014 seized the capital, Sanaa, 120km west of Marib, along with much of northern Yemen. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government.

Loyalist military officials said on Saturday that coalition aircraft had carried out strikes against the Houthis, but the movement had pushed on with their offensive.

The Houthis have also increased missile and drone strikes against neighbouring Saudi Arabia in recent months, rejecting a Saudi proposal for a ceasefire.

The loss of Marib would be a heavy blow for the Yemeni government, currently based in the southern city of Aden, and for its Saudi backers. The province is also home to at least a million displaced people living in camps in the surrounding desert.

Western countries have previously called on the Houthis to halt their Marib offensive, accusing the rebels of deepening the country's humanitarian crisis.