ADEN: Seven Yemeni soldiers and eight rebels were killed in heavy fighting over the past 24 hours near the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha, medical and security sources said Saturday. The historic port was captured by government forces on Feb. 10 as part of a major offensive launched in January to try to recapture Yemen’s 450-kilometer Red Sea coastline, which had previously been almost entirely in rebel hands.
But there have been repeated clashes over the past month both inland and north of the town as the rebels seek to take it back.
The latest fighting focused on the village of Yakhtul, 14 kilometers north of Mokha, which is currently in government hands.
It came as an airstrike on a rebel-held port further north by an Arab-led coalition supporting the government killed at least 22 civilians and six rebels and wounded dozens.
The strike on the town of Khokha targeted rebel fighters who had taken refuge at the entrance to a market selling the mild narcotic qat, which is a central part of Yemeni social life.
Rescue workers Friday night were battling a blaze in the market caused by the attack and pulling bodies out of the rubble, according to Hashim Azazi, deputy governor of Hudaida province.
The fighting on Yemen’s west coast has displaced nearly 50,000 people in the last six weeks among them children suffering from malnutrition forced to live in schools and in tents on streets, a United Nations refugee agency spokesman told a news briefing in Geneva.
The blocking of main roads by warring parties is hampering humanitarian access to those in need.
“The incident at Khokha resulted in a number of civilian deaths and injuries. We’re deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” UNHCR spokeswoman for Yemen Shabia Mantoo told Reuters.
The war in Yemen, which began when Houthis seized Yemen’s capital of Sanaa in September 2014, has killed more than 10,000 civilians and displaced over 3 million people.
The Arab-led coalition began a campaign against the rebels in March 2015 in support of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. The war has ground into a stalemated conflict in recent months. Peace efforts by the United Nations also have faltered.