Soldiers killed in riots after new attack by Houthis in Marib province, reports say.
A new bout of front-line fighting in Yemen has disrupted diplomatic efforts to extend a United Nations-brokered cease-fire agreement that has largely stood since it expired six months ago.
Military and government sources told news agencies the clashes broke out late on Tuesday when Houthi rebels, who control most of northern Yemen, launched an attack on Harib district, in the oil-rich Marib province.
The Houthis “made progress on that front, displacing dozens of families,” one of the sources told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“At least 10 soldiers were killed, in addition to an unknown number of attackers,” the source added.
Separate sources quoted by Reuters said the number of casualties in the fighting was unknown.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.
Yemen has been marred by bloody conflict since Iran-linked Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene in March 2015 in support of the internationally recognized government.
The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions from their homes and sparked what the United Nations has described as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 23.4 million people, or three quarters of Yemen’s population, are in need of assistance, including 2.2 million young people who are acutely malnourished.
More than eight years after the fighting, the Houthis are still in control of the north of the country, but Marib – about 120 km east of Sanaa – has remained a stronghold under the government now based in the southern port city of Sanaa. Aden.
The UN-backed ceasefire initially came into effect in April 2022, raising hopes for an extended lull in the fighting. The deal expired in October, but the fighting has largely been suspended.
Last week, Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, said the overall military situation in the country remains “relatively stable” and other elements of the ceasefire are still being implemented, though he was concerned about the rise in the number of and intensity of clashes in several front-line areas, including Marib and Taiz, which lie in the southwest of the country.
Grundberg told the UN Security Council that there has also been “a step change in the scope and depth of talks” and called on warring parties to “seize the opportunities” created by new regional and international momentum, including a recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran restore ties after years of tensions.
In a sign of détente, the government and the Houthis agreed on Monday to exchange about 880 detainees amid talks in Switzerland facilitated by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Representatives from both sides have also welcomed the Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, but some analysts are skeptical about its impact on the situation in Yemen.
“I don’t think the Saudi-Iran deal will largely affect the Yemeni dossier,” Adel Dashela, a Yemeni political researcher and author, told Al Jazeera. “It is not easy to end the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, recover seized state weapons and force them to cease using weapons.”