In this file picture, Yemeni government forces fight Al Houthis in Sa'ada. Image Credit: 26 Sepnews.net

Sana’a: A drastic escalation in fighting between the Saudi-led military coalition and the pro-Iran Al Houthi militia in Yemen has killed and wounded hundreds of people over the past week, officials and tribal leaders said Monday.

The Arab coalition is battling to restore Yemen’s internationally recognised government. It has stepped up air strikes on militia targets northeast of the capital, Sana’a, following a monthslong lull, while Al Houthis shelled government-held areas.

The sudden spike in violence across long-stalemated front lines threatened to exacerbate the five-year conflict and complicate indirect peace talks between Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed militia.

The UN Security Council called emergency consultations for Tuesday morning at Britain’s request on the latest developments. Britain’s UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, said the council would receive a closed-door video briefing from the UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed vowed that government forces would “harshly confront” Al Houthi militias, which he accused of trying to “prolong the war and relieve the pressure and international isolation of Iran.”

Al Houthi offensives signal “their explicit rejection of peace efforts,” he said.

Both sides have concentrated their forces in three main areas: Nehm, a half-hour drive from the capital” Jawf, a mountainous northern district” and Marib, a western province that saw one of the deadliest militia attacks earlier this month. Fighting this week was the most intense those provinces had seen in three years, according to observers.

A wave of over 40 coalition air strikes hit AL Houthi targets, destroying many of their tanks and armoured vehicles.

Throughout the day, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi deliberated with military chiefs and local governors. He stressed the need to “upgrade military institutions to the highest level of training, armament and vigilance,” according to a government statement.

Fighting also flared up Monday in the large government-controlled city of Taiz, where a mortar shell fired by Al Houthis struck a busy market, killing three civilians and wounding 10. Meanwhile, heavy clashes in the central province of Bayda killed 13 fighters on both sides.

For months, back-channel negotiations in Oman between Saudi Arabia and Al Houthis stirred modest hopes for reconciliation. But sharply escalating violence has put the political process on shaky ground.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been convulsed by war since Al Houthis seized the capital and ousted Hadi’s government in 2014. The conflict set off one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, killing over 10,000 people, displacing more than 3 million and pushing the country to the brink of famine.

Potentially fatal diseases, such as cholera, spread as the country’s public health and sanitation systems collapsed.