Yemeni army forces backed by Gulf Arabs fought their way into the Red Sea coast city of al-Mokha on Monday, military officials said, pushing out Iran-allied Houthi militia.
Military units loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi entered the port area on Mokha’s southwestern edge, an army official said.
“Houthi forces began withdrawing this morning, and the city is nearly abandoned after most of its residents departed,” the official said. “The city and the port are under the control of the national army.”
Forces loyal to the president launched an offensive on January 7 to retake the Dhubab district overlooking the Bab al-Mandab strait, a key maritime route connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Warplanes and Apache attack helicopters from a Saudi-led coalition have been pounding the rebels in support of pro-Hadi forces, military sources said.
Newly recruited Houthi fighters on their way to the battlefront to fight government forces. (Reuters file photo)
The latest clashes in Yemen killed at least 52 Houthi militants and 14 pro-government soldiers, medics and security sources said on Sunday.
They said that at least 55 wounded rebel fighters and 22 wounded government loyalists were hospitalised in the cities of Hodeida and Aden.
Houthis have controlled al-Mokha since they overran the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and advanced on other regions aided by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A Saudi-led coalition mounted a military campaign against the rebels in March 2015 as insurgents closed in on Hadi in his refuge in the southern city of Aden and forced him to seek exile in Riyadh.
Loyalists have since driven rebels out of five southern provinces, including Aden.
UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C), gets into his car upon his arrival at Sanaa international airport on January 22, 2017. (AFP)
Earlier on Sunday, UN peace envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sanaa for talks and to push a peace plan that would restore a ceasefire.
The plan would lead to a political transition and significantly reduce Hadi’s powers.
Gulf Arab countries say the Houthis are a proxy for their arch-rival Iran, a charge Tehran denies.
International agencies believe at least 10,000 people have died in the mostly stalemated Yemeni conflict, which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.