SANAA, Yemen — At least 18 soldiers were killed on Sunday in fighting between the Yemeni army and Houthi militia in Yemen’s central province of Marib, government military source said.

“Eighteen soldiers were killed today in the battle in the desert area of al-Balak al-Sharki in southern Marib,” the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

“There were also many Houthis killed in the battle by airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Arab coalition,” he said, without giving a specific number.

The Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported 16 coalition airstrikes on al-Balak al-Sharki area without providing further details. The Houthi militia have made major advances in the past months in Marib, seizing control of several districts around the government-controlled central city.

In February, the Iran-backed group began a major offensive to capture the oil-rich province, the last northern stronghold of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. Enditem.