SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Renewed fighting has erupted in central Yemen, killing at least 16 forces, security and health officials said Wednesday.
The flare-up of violence comes after diplomats and leaders expressed new hope for peace efforts in the war-torn country in the days leading up to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The fighting flared up Tuesday evening, two security officials and a local tribal leader said, after the Houthi rebels moved on the city of Harib, in the south of the central province of Marib. They said the fighting continued through Wednesday and led to communications being cut in the city and its surroundings.
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis attempted to take control of the oil-rich province for much of 2021. For part of that year, the Houthis held the town of Harib. But their offensive crumbled late last year when the United Arab Emirates-backed forces helped reclaim the nearby Shabwa province before advancing on Marib under air cover from the Saudi-led coalition, eventually re-taking Harib and its surroundings.
Health and security officials from both sides said the 16 dead were from both sides of the fighting, and that another 20 forces were wounded in the battle. They said the violence has forced many families to leave their homes hours before the start of the holy month of Ramadan Thursday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.
The Houthis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their military activities in oil-rich Marib. A statement issued by the Houthi's defense ministry Wednesday evening said “the sovereignty of our homeland and our resources are legitimate rights that cannot be compromised, and we will sacrifice everything in order to defend it," without elaborating.
Yemen’s devastating conflict began in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition including the United Arab Emirates intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.
A U.N.-backed truce initially took effect in April 2022 and raised hopes for a longer pause in fighting, but it ended on Oct. 2 after just six months. However, the country's fighting has largely lulled. Since then the U.N. envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg intensified his internationally-backed efforts to end the eight-year conflict.
An agreement earlier this month between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic ties has buoyed hopes that the countries could pressure their Yemeni allies to embark on political talks to end the conflict. Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposing sides in Yemen's conflict.