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Fierce clashes between Yemen’s government loyalist troops and Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels over control of an oil-rich region in Yemen killed 10 soldiers and at least 16 rebels on Monday, according to military sources.
Yemen has been the site of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the Houthi rebels forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor to the north. The Shiite Houthis are allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival. The international community recognizes Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate leader.
Since March 2015, the Houthi rebels and loyalists to Hadi have been fighting a civil war in Yemen, and forces in a Saudi-led Arab coalition are trying to restore Hadi to power.
“Pro-government forces launched a military operation today to retake Sarwah,” a military source from the loyalist troops said on Monday.
Sarwah is the only area in Yemen’s Marib province still in the hands of the Houthi rebels who have been controlling the nearby Yemeni capital Sanaa since September 2014. The Saudi-led coalition trying to restore the internationally-recognized politicians to power has forces in the Marib province to support the loyalists.
According to the source, clashes and air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition killed 16 and wounded dozens of rebels. Forces loyal to the government have recaptured hills overlooking Sarwah, the source noted.
Last week, the Houthi rebels claimed they struck facilities of Saudi oil giant Aramco in the southwestern part of Saudi Arabia as well as the airport of Abha in the kingdom. The alleged attack, unconfirmed by reliable sources, came just days after another one which the Houthi rebel group claimed it had carried out, also targeting Aramco facilities.
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Neither of the attacks has been confirmed by Saudi sources or Aramco itself. After the first attack, Aramco officials told Bloomberg all its refineries were operating as usual.
Yemen is a small oil producer, but its geographical position is strategic because it sits on the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden--a waterway for much of the oil shipments in the region.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.