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Yemen: Explosion in city of Marib kills at least 12 people, including children

Marib authorities blame incident near petrol station on missile fired by the Houthi militia, with number of fatalities expected to rise
Fighters loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government at the frontline facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels near Marib, 13 May 2021 (AFP)

At least 12 people were killed on Saturday in an explosion near a petrol station in the Yemeni city of Marib, which members of the Saudi-backed government blamed on a missile strike by Houthi forces.

A medical source told Reuters that dozens of people, many of them badly burned, had been taken to Marib General Hospital and 12 of them had died of their injuries, including five children.

"The rest are receiving treatment and we expect the number of victims to rise," the source added.

Confirming the explosion, the Marib Governorate blamed the incident on a missile fired by the Houthi militia fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's civil war. It said on Facebook that 14 people had been killed.

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A resident, meanwhile, told AFP that the petrol station was located near an open-air market and a camp for displaced people, while another resident said that a government military base is also nearby.

Yemeni Information Minister Mouammar al-Eryani denounced the attack on Twitter, calling it a "heinous terrorist crime which amounts to a war crime".

The health and information ministers in the internationally recognised Yemeni government also blamed Houthis for the attack.

"More than 17 killed and injured, including this child burned by Houthi Rocket [attack] on Marib city today," Health Minister Qasem Buhaibeh wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of a burned figure.

The Houthi forces could not be reached for comment.

'Targeted civilians'

The Marib region is the last northern stronghold of the Saudi-backed government, which has been at war against the Iran-aligned Houthi forces since 2014.

A Marib resident told Reuters the explosion was near a fuel station in the Shabwani market on the outskirts of Marib.

"The fire broke out while many people were there and there was a large number of casualties. Ambulances and firefighters came and many of the injured were taken to hospital," the resident said.

Saudi state TV El-Ekbarayia quoted the Yemeni army as saying that Houthis had "targeted civilians in Marib with a ballistic missile and a drone". Eryani made similar accusations and put the death toll at 17.

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Fighting over Marib and its vast gas fields has killed thousands of fighters from both sides and threatened years of peace efforts.

The latest attack came as a diplomatic push to secure a ceasefire in Yemen's long war intensifies.

On Saturday, an Omani delegation arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa to try to convince the Houthis to accept a ceasefire and join the peace efforts.

Marib, which lies east of Sanaa, had witnessed relative stability since the war erupted in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital, becoming a safe haven for hundreds of thousands who fled frontline fighting.

But the escalation of hostilities has displaced thousands in Marib this year, according to the UN refugee agency.

Marib's loss to the Houthis would be a major blow for Yemen's government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and could unleash a humanitarian disaster for the region's civilians.

The United States has accused the Houthis of worsening Yemen's humanitarian crisis by attacking Marib.

The civil war, which has been in a military stalemate for years, has killed more than 230,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.