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Saudi Coalition Ups Strikes on Rebels  12/05 08:44

   

   CAIRO (AP) -- A Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen 
accelerated airstrikes on the capital and elsewhere in the conflict-stricken 
country in recent weeks, as government forces advanced in the west coast and 
the key province of Marib, officials said Sunday.

   The coalition said it hit military facilities in rebel-held Sanaa and 
launched airstrikes against Houthi front lines in the strategic Marib and 
Hodeida provinces.

   Government forces, meanwhile, seized a major district in Hodeida province 
and other areas on Yemen's western coast, military officials from both sides 
said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not 
authorized to brief media.

   The rebels did not immediately comment on government advances in Hodeida. 
But Houthi-run media reported dozens of airstrikes by the coalition on the 
rebels in the provinces of Hodeida, Marib, Sanaa, Tazi and Saada.

   The escalation of fighting in recent weeks comes as the rebels repeatedly 
push back against diplomatic efforts by the U.N. and U.S. to bring an end to 
the Houthis' Marib offensive and missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia. The 
U.N. and U.S. want the Houthis to engage in negotiations to find a settlement 
to the yearslong conflict in Yemen.

   Yemen's war began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis, who 
control much of the country's north. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in 
2015, determined to restore the government and oust the rebels. The conflict 
has since become a regional proxy war that has killed tens of thousands of 
civilians and fighters. The war also created the world's worst humanitarian 
crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and 
pushing the country to the brink of famine.

   The Saudi-led coalition said it launched numerous airstrikes over the past 
week on Houthi military camps and storehouses for ballistic missiles and 
explosives-laden drones in Sanaa, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

   In Hodeida province, government forces seized control of the district of 
Hays and a major highway linking the contested port city of Hodeida with the 
rebel-held capital, according to military officials from both sides.

   Abdu Abdullah Magli, a spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, said forces 
advanced in the districts of Jabal Raas and Garrahi south of Hodeida city with 
the support of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

   The developments come three weeks after pro-government troops known as the 
Joint Forces redeployed forces from Hodeida, arguing that there was no need for 
them to stay after the U.N.-brokered cease-fire in 2018 that ended fighting 
over the coastal city.

   The escalation in Hodeida was a setback to the deal that was seen as an 
important first step toward ending the broader conflict in Yemen, devastated by 
years of civil war, but was never fully implemented.

   In the port city of Mocha on Yemen's western coast, government forces 
launched their fiercest offensive against the Houthis in the the city in years, 
retaking several nearby towns in the past two weeks, said the officials.

   Government forces with the help of coalition airstrikes accelerated their 
attacks south of Marib province, "reclaiming important and strategic positions" 
from the Houthis, said Magli, the military spokesman.

   He said government forces and tribal fighters also attacked the rebels on 
the southern front line in Marib province, leaving dozens of Houthis dead and 
wounded.

   The rebels have for months attempted to take oil-rich city of Marib to 
complete their control over the northern half of Yemen before engaging in 
settlement talks. The Houthis have also escalated cross-border attacks by 
ballistic missiles and explosive laden drones on Saudi Arabia.

   The Houthi offensive on Marib has worsened the already dire situation in the 
province and sent waves of newly displaced persons to crowded camps on the 
outskirts of the city of Marib in recent weeks. The province's 137 displacement 
camps have seen a nearly 10-fold increase in new arrivals since September, 
according to the U.N. migration agency.

   The International Organization for Migration said last month that more than 
45,000 people in Marib province have been forced to leave their homes since 
September, including many for the fourth or fifth time since the beginning of 
Yemen's war.

   "IOM is extremely concerned about the prospect that hundreds of thousands of 
people might be forced to move again if violence reaches the city, as well as 
rising civilian causalities and the destruction of civilian infrastructure," 
said Christa Rottensteiner, the migration agency's chief in Yemen.

 
 
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