Yemen loyalists push back rebels on Red Sea coast
Yemeni government forces made gains around the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha, a military source said on Thursday, rebuffing a rebel counter-offensive in heavy fighting overnight.
Seven loyalist troops and 16 rebels were killed in the clashes, hospital sources said, adding that twelve soldiers and 28 rebels were wounded.
Government forces captured Yakhtul, 14 kilometres (nine miles) north of Mokha, and Jabal al-Nar, 10 kilometres (six miles) to the east, consolidating their grip on the town they overran on February 10, the military source told AFP.
Twelve rebels were taken prisoner.
On Tuesday, government forces had suffered a major setback in the offensive they launched in January to try to recapture Yemen's 450 kilometre (280 mile) Red Sea coastline, which had previously been almost entirely under Houthi control.
However, rebel forces counterattacked, killing a deputy army commander and 18 other troops.
The loyalists' capture of Mokha was their biggest success in months.
Despite nearly two years of military support from a Saudi-led coalition, government forces are largely restricted to the south and areas along the Saudi border.
The rebels still hold the capital Sanaa and much of the central and northern highlands as well as most of the Red Sea coast.
Meanwhile, the government's next goal is the main Red Sea port city of Hodeida, a vital conduit for UN-supervised aid deliveries to rebel-held areas.
On Wednesday, coalition airstrikes on Hodeida province killed seven rebels and wounded 15, military sources said.
The raids targeted an arms warehouse in Bayt al-Faqih and a missile launcher in Bajil.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the coalition's intervention began in March 2015, according to World Health Organization figures.
UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick warned that seven million Yemenis are close to starvation.