Over 130 victims in clashes between government forces and Houthi rebels in Marib

The highest number of deaths among pro-Iranian Shiite militias, hit by Saudi air raids. Attacks concentrated in the southern sector. Fears of a humanitarian catastrophe are high. Yemeni Prime Minister: a battle that "will determine the future of the country". UN assembly calls for access to Covid vaccines. 



Sana'a (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Over 130 people have died in the last two days of intense fighting between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels for control of the area around Marib, a town of strategic importance.

Local sources report that the highest number of casualties is among the Shiite militias, who since February have launched a massive offensive against the last government stronghold in the north of the country. The outskirts of the city are rich in oil, and hundreds of guerrillas on both sides have already died in the fighting; health authorities and international organisations fear a humanitarian catastrophe.

Eyewitnesses say that the latest clashes were concentrated in the southern sector of Marib, where the Houthi rebels have directed their attacks in an attempt to break through the government army's defences.

The Shiite militias are used to attacking with waves of guerrillas charging headlong into government lines, making them easy targets for fighter jets from the Saudi-led Arab coalition allied to the regular army. Official Houthi sources say Riyadh has launched more than 30 air raids in the area around Marib since 27 September.

Analysts and experts stress that the capture of the city would give the pro-Tehran rebels a strong position in negotiations with the government, as well as control of the entire north and become the launching pad for attacks on other provinces.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed told the official Saba news agency that the current battle "is not for Shabwa or Marib, but for all Yemenis". The fate of the clash," he added, "will determine the future" of the country.

The war in Yemen broke out in 2014 pitting the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-supported Shia Houthi rebels.

In March 2015 the conflict escalated when Saudi Arabia decided to get directly involved, resulting in more than 10,000 dead 55,000 wounded. However, independent observers put the death toll for the period between January 2016 and July 2018 at about 57,000.

For the United Nations, the war is “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, aggravated by the “devastating” COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is such that millions people are close to famine with children expected to suffer consequences for the next 20 years. Weeks ago dozens of activists staged a bicycle ride for peace. 

In the meantime, the situation on the Covid-19 front is still critical, to the point of prompting the head of Yemeni diplomacy, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, to launch an appeal from the stage of the United Nations General Assembly to send "millions of vaccines".

So far, not even one million people (out of a total of about 30 million) in the country have been able to receive immunisation, so much so that even the weakest and most fragile groups are still largely uncovered.

The 500,000 doses received to date under the Covax project, the diplomat added, "are not even enough to cover the categories at risk. We hope that donor countries will contribute to increasing the number of vaccines, so that no one is left behind" in this global fight against the virus.