The United Nations’ humanitarian chief was ‘very alarmed’ by the Houthi rebels advance on the Yemeni government’s last northern stronghold.
Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, tweeted on Tuesday that an assault on Marib would endanger two million civilians and could cause hundreds of thousands to flee the city, which would have “unimaginable humanitarian consequences”.
The Houthis have this month resumed an offensive to seize Marib, some 120km east of Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa.
The city’s loss would be a major blow for Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
“Now is the time to de-escalate, not to add even more to the misery of the Yemeni people,” Lowcock said in his tweet.
Military officials from the Yemeni government told AFP news agency that the rebels had advanced towards the city on two fronts overnight after heavy fighting with government forces.
Dozens from both sides have been killed in the past 24 hours alone, they said. The total casualty toll from the battle for Marib is unknown but reports indicate it is now in the hundreds.
The Saudi-led coalition, which intervened militarily in Yemen six years ago, has been pounding rebel positions.
The Houthi-run Al Masirah television on Tuesday reported a total of 13 air raids in Marib – 11 on locations in the district of Sirwah, and two in the district of Madghal.