Massive casualties after Houthis' offensive on Yemen's Marib intensifies
A military source told Reuters on Monday that Marib was a "blood bath" but that the Houthis had suffered the highest losses with the frontline moving 20 kilometres away from city's west side, which was held by pro-government forces.
This is considered as the biggest loss of human lives in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition - which backs the government - offensive to take Hodeidah port back in 2018.
The latest assault took place just days after the new US administration removed the Houthis from Washington's blacklist of terrorist organisations in a bid to facilitate aid deliveries to rebel-held areas and pave the way for renewed peace talks.
President Joe Biden's government also halted their support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen due to the high civilian death toll in the conflict.
A Western diplomat told Reuters that the Houthis are taking advantage of "Saudi Arabia's isolation after the election of Joe Biden... and its disintegrating coalition"
"It is a big gamble but I also wonder what do they have to lose?" the source said.
"It puts millions of civilians at risk, especially with the fighting reaching camps for internally displaced persons…. The quest for territorial gain by force threatens the prospects of the peace process," said Griffiths.
The UN and the US are multiplying calls for the Houthis to stop the fighting and start negociating for peace, without any success so far.
On Sunday, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said that the offensive on Marib was a "national liberation battle".
Up until early 2020, Marib had been spared the worst of Yemen's six-year-old conflict and became a sanctuary for many displaced people.
The Yemen war broke out in September 2014 when Houthis and supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Salah captured the capital Sanaa, forcing the government to flee south.
In March 2015, after the rebels moved towards the southern city of Aden, a Saudi-led coalition intervened with air strikes greatly increasing the civilian death toll.
Since the military intervention in 2015, more than 100,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in Yemen, where the conflict has been described as the "world's worst humanitarian crisis".