Yemen rebels say key leader killed in battle for Marib

Yemen rebels say key leader killed in battle for Marib
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Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels said Wednesday a senior leader had been killed as fighting surges for the strategic city of Marib
Government forces and the Houthi rebels have been locked for months in a fierce battle for Marib [Getty- archive]

Yemen's Houthi rebels said Wednesday a senior leader had been killed as fighting surges for the strategic city of Marib, with pro-government sources reporting it was in a Saudi-led coalition strike.

Government forces and the Houthi rebels have been locked for months in a fierce battle for Marib, the government's last stronghold and capital of the northern oil-rich province of the same name.

Casualties have been heavy in that battle, but Houthi forces rarely confirm losses in their ranks.

On Wednesday, however, the Houthi news agency reported that the rebel vice-governor of Shabwa province, Ahmad al-Hamza, had been "martyred in the battle", without giving further details.

Military sources close to the government said he was killed Tuesday night in an air strike by the Saudi-led military coalition when it targeted "a convoy of Houthi commanders", with other officials injured.

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The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting for nearly seven years in support of Yemen's government against the Iran-backed Houthis, in a conflict that has displaced millions and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

The rebels began a major push to seize Marib city in February and, after a lull, they renewed their offensive in September.

The Saudi-led coalition has been reporting high death tolls in regular strikes against the Houthis since October.

According to Houthi-linked media, the coalition air force carried out "45 raids on Shabwa" on Wednesday.

Pro-government military sources reported the deaths of 12 loyalist forces, killed by a missile launched by the rebels targeting the home of a local official.

As hostilities re-escalate, the rebels on Monday said they had seized a military ship flying a United Arab Emirates flag. The coalition insisted it was carrying medical supplies.

The coalition has threatened to target Yemen's rebel-held ports unless the vessel is freed.