Yemen government forces recapture historical Red Sea city
Yemeni government forces re-seized control of the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha on Friday, after weeks of deadly fighting with Houthi rebels and their allies, a spokesman said.
Loyalist military sources confirmed that government forces were in "full control".
"We have done with the Battle of Mokha," armed forces spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib told AFP, adding that the rebels had been forced out of the historic town.
Twenty-four rebels and eight loyalist troops were killed in fighting on Wednesday alone, as tens of thousands of civilians – many of whom had sought refuge in Mokha after fleeing fighting elsewhere - were caught in the fighting.
Last month, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said that "scores of civilians" had been killed or wounded by shelling and sniper fire around Mokha or by airstrikes carried out by a Saudi-led coalition.
He said most services in the town had ground to a halt, including the mains water supply.
Eyes on Hodeida
Government forces had already taken Mokha's docks earlier this month but there was heavy fighting in other parts of the town before the rebels withdrew north towards the main Red Sea port city of Hodeida, which they still control.
"We now preparing for the second phase of the battle for the coast, which is to advance towards Hodeida," the loyalist armed forces spokesman said.
Before the government launched its offensive on January 7, the rebels controlled virtually all of Yemen's 450 kilometre (280 miles) Red Sea coastline.
But with the support of the Saudi-led coalition, the loyalists have made their biggest advances in months in heavy fighting that has seen more than 400 combatants killed.
Despite nearly two years of coalition air and ground support, government forces had previously been almost entirely confined to the south and areas along the Saudi border.
The rebels hold the capital Sanaa and most of the northern and central highlands as well as the coast around Hodeida.
The coalition has enforced an air and sea blockade of rebel-held territory that prevented the rebels making any use of Mokha's small docks.
All deliveries of basic goods are under UN supervision and those by sea pass through Hodeida making the port city vital to the rebels.
The Red Sea is one of the world's most important shipping lanes linking to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and Washington has deployed warships to ensure it is kept open despite the conflict raging onshore.
More than 10,000 people, half of which civilians, have been killed since the conflict escalated with the Saudi-led coalition intervention in March 2015.