Houthis advance on Yemen's Marib after taking mountain: government source

Houthis advance on Yemen's Marib after taking mountain: government source
Houthis have made major advances on Marib amid hours of clashes, Yemen's government said on Friday.
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Yemen's Houthi rebels have made major advances on Marib city, the government's final holdout in the country's north, after hours of clashes, government military sources said on Friday.

The Houthis and the government have been locked in a power struggle since 2014, when the Iran-backed insurgents seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Since last month, the rebels have been pushing to seize Marib, the government's last northern stronghold and the capital of an oil-rich region.

The Houthi rebels "took control of Mount Hilan overlooking the city, after fighting which left dozens of dead and wounded on both sides," one of the sources told AFP.

"Marib is in danger," another source said, adding the loss of the mountain posed "a threat to Marib's first line of defence".

The Houthis had "cut the supply lines of some fronts and are now within firing range of the Al-Mashjab line west of Marib city," the source said.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015, enforcing a naval and air blockade to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the rebels from Iran -- allegations Tehran denies. 

The rebels say any ceasefire agreement can only begin after the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen is lifted.

The news of their advance came only hours after the United Nations Security Council condemned the "escalation" of armed clashes around Marib city and warned of a worsening humanitarian catastrophe.

The fighting "places one million internally displaced persons at grave risk and threatens efforts to secure a political settlement when the international community is increasingly united to end the conflict," it said.

In a statement, it "stressed the need for de-escalation by all, including an immediate end to the Houthi escalation in Marib (and) condemned the use of child soldiers in Marib."

The council also condemned cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia.

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