Huthi rebels massacre at least 80 Yemeni soldiers

Iran-backed Huthi rebels kill over 80 Yemeni soldiers in ‘cowardly and terrorist’ attack on mosque in Marit province, shattering period of relative calm.

CAIRO - Huthi rebels have killed at least 80 Yemeni soldiers and wounded dozens of others in a missile and drone attack on a mosque in the central Marit province, Yemeni officials and Saudi state television said on Saturday.

The Huthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in the central province of Marib -- about 170 kilometres (105 miles) east of the capital Sanaa -- during evening prayers, military sources

Death tolls in Yemen's grinding conflict are often disputed, but the huge toll in Marib represents one of the bloodiest single attacks since the war erupted in 2014 when the rebels seized Sanaa.

The Huthis did not make any immediate claim of responsibility and a Saba report did not give a death toll.

Yemeni president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” attack, according to the official Saba news agency.

“The disgraceful actions of the Huthi militia without a doubt confirm its unwillingness to (achieve) peace, because it knows nothing but death and destruction and is a cheap Iranian tool in the region,” it quoted Hadi as saying.

The president also stressed the importance of increasing military vigilance "to foil hostile and destructive plans and maintain security and stability".

The Huthis did not make any immediate claim of responsibility and the Saba report did not give a death toll.

‘Quiet Period’

The uptick in violence comes shortly after United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed a sharp reduction in air strikes and the movement of ground forces.

"We are surely, and I hope this is true and I hope it will remain so, witnessing one of the quietest periods of this conflict," he said in a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

"Experience however tells us that military de-escalation cannot be sustained without political progress between the parties, and this has become the next challenge."

A year after Yemen's warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered truce for the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and its surroundings, fighting in the province has subsided but the slow implementation of the deal has quashed hopes for an end to the conflict.

The landmark agreement signed in Sweden in December 2018 had been hailed as Yemen's best chance so far to end the fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government, supported by Saudi-led military coalition, has been fighting a proxy war with Iran-backed Huthis since 2014, when rebels seized the northern capital of Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015 to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which the Huthis ousted from power in the capital Sanaa and is now based in the southern port city of Aden.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by the fighting, which the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.