UN says Huthi attack on government stronghold ‘must stop’

A Huthi rebel assault on the Yemeni government’s last northern stronghold must stop, the UN envoy to the country said Thursday, warning of a potential humanitarian disaster.

“It puts millions of civilians at risk, especially with the fighting reaching camps for internally displaced persons, ” envoy Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council by video conference, of the attack on the city of Marib.

“The quest for territorial gain by force threatens the prospects of the peace process.”

The Iran-backed Huthis this month resumed their offensive to seize oil-rich Marib, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

The city’s loss would be a major blow for Yemen’s government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, but would also threaten catastrophe for civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people sheltering in desolate camps in the region.

“To seize this chance to revitalize the political process, the parties should immediately agree to a nationwide ceasefire that halts all forms of fighting, ” Griffiths said.

Tim Lenderking, newly named as the US special envoy for Yemen as part of President Joe Biden’s push to end the war, this week also urged the Huthis to halt their advance.

The assault could “push an already stretched humanitarian infrastructure beyond the breaking point, ” Lenderking told reporters in Washington after a trip to the region.

The toll from the battle for Marib is unknown, but there are reports of hundreds dead.

Until early 2020, Marib had been spared the worst of Yemen’s six-year-old conflict, and became a sanctuary for many.