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Yemen: Scores killed as fighting intensifies in Marib province

Nearly 80 Houthi rebels and pro-government fighters were killed in fighting for the strategic city of Marib on Wednesday
Screengrab from Saudi TV showing government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition firing artillery shells at Houthi rebels in Marib (AFP)

Nearly 80 rebels and pro-government troops were killed in fighting for the strategic city of Marib in Yemen, according to reports. 

Fighting for the oil-rich Marib region, the Yemeni government's last northern stronghold, has killed hundreds on both sides.

Control of Marib would strengthen the Houthi's bargaining position in ongoing peace talks. 

Military sources told AFP on Wednesday that at least 60 Houthi rebels and 18 pro-government troops were killed over the course of a day in Marib. 

"Sixty Houthi rebels were killed - most of them in air strikes conducted in the last 24 hours - while 18 pro-government troops were killed and dozens injured in clashes over the past 48 hours," a government military official said. 

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The military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said fighting had intensified over the last few days. 

The official added that air strikes have also intensified.

Early on Wednesday, the Houthi rebels reported that the coalition launched at least 30 air strikes against them across the Marib province. 

"The Houthis launched last night a military offensive that continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning," the pro-government official said, adding loyalist troops were able to repel the insurgents despite a small advance on the northern front. 

Last week, a government military official said at least 65 combatants were killed in fighting over Marib. 

The official said 22 members of pro-government forces were killed and 50 others were wounded, while 43 Houthi rebels were also killed in the fighting. 

In February, the Houthis escalated their efforts to seize Marib.

Yemen's internationally recognised government and the Houthis have been fighting since 2014 when the Houthi group took control of the capital Sanaa. 

The conflict is described by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with the majority of Yemenis dependent on aid and millions facing hunger. 

Cuts in international aid to Yemen threaten widespread famine this year, aid agencies have warned. 

While the UN is pushing for an end to the war, the Houthis have demanded the reopening of Sanaa airport, closed under a Saudi blockade since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations can take place.

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