Yemen’s Houthi rebels have taken control of 10 out of 14 districts of the strategic northern city of Marib, the Houthi deputy foreign minister, Hussein al-Ezzi, told CNN Wednesday.
Despite this, Marib’s key city center district still remains under the control of the Saudi-backed government.
“Most of Marib is now in the hands of the [Houthis], there are 14 districts that make up Marib, only two are controlled by the [internationally recognized government] including the city center, two others are battlefields and the rest of the districts are under Houthi control,” Al-Ezzi said.
The battle for Marib, the last major northern stronghold for the internationally recognized government, is pivotal for the warring sides of the Yemen conflict.
A key strategic location, home to one of the largest oil infrastructures in Yemen, Marib has seen intensified fighting and a renewed military offensive early this year.
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have continued bombarding Houthi positions, according to Houthi media, pushing the Iranian-backed forces back; however the Houthis said they are edging towards controlling all surrounding districts of the city.
“Despite the repeated calls made by the international community for the Houthis to stop their attacks on Marib, Houthis continued to escalate – only this week, the militias launched more than 15 ballistic missiles towards the city of Marib,” the internationally recognized government’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak told CNN.
Aid groups and diplomats have issued stark warnings of a humanitarian crisis if the battles continue.
“Ma’rib Governorate already hosts an estimated one million Internally Displaced Persons – the largest IDP population in Yemen according to local authorities – and some live in approximately 125 IDP sites,” the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) said last week.