DUBAI: At least 100 Yemeni rebels and pro-government troops have been killed in the past 48 hours as fighting intensifies for the key city of Marib, military and medical sources said on Wednesday, reports AFP.
A string of air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition targeted the Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have stepped up their assault on Marib, the government's last northern stronghold.
The rebels rarely announce casualties among their own ranks, but their Al-Masirah channel reported around 60 coalition air strikes in Marib governorate in the past two days.
Hundreds of fighters have been killed this month after the Huthis renewed their campaign for the capital city of the oil-rich province.
The Huthis initially escalated their efforts to seize Marib in February, hoping to gain control of the region's oil resources and strengthen their position in peace talks. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced in the war that erupted in 2014, after the Huthis seized Sanaa.
About 80 percent of Yemen's 30 million people are dependent on aid, in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Marib sits at a crossroads between the southern and northern regions and is key to controlling Yemen's north. If it falls, the Huthis could be emboldened to push into the government-held south, analysts say.
If they seize the city, "the Huthis will use Marib to advance towards the southern governorates bordering it", he told AFP.
The Huthis began a big push to seize Marib in February and, after a lull, they renewed their campaign this month, prompting intense air bombardments from coalition forces.
"Losing Marib to the Huthis could change the course of the war," said Elisabeth Kendall, researcher at the University of Oxford's Pembroke College.
"It would be another nail in the coffin of the government's claim to authority and would strengthen Huthi leverage in any projected peace talks."
According to Iryani, there still lies the possibility that Marib's tribes and parties, which fight on the government side, accept a Huthi deal to spare the city destruction.