The top UN humanitarian official in Yemen said on Tuesday he feared for the lives of civilians in two Red Sea coast cities where Yemeni government forces and their Gulf Arab backers are on an offensive to oust Iran-allied Houthi militia.
Coalition-supported Yemeni Army forces advanced northward into Al-Mokha and Dhubab last week in a bid to deprive the Houthis of strategic Red Sea ports.
“I am extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians in the Dhubab and Al-Mokha districts of Taiz Governorate,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said in a statement.
“Repeated airstrikes, shelling and sniper attacks in and around the town of Al-Mokha have killed and injured scores of civilians and have ground most services to a halt, including the main market and the water supply system.”
Some 20,000 to 30,000 people were trapped in Al-Mokha and in need of assistance, he added, but intense fighting was impeding safe access for relief agencies.
Houthi forces attacked a Saudi warship stationed off the coast on Monday night, causing an explosion that killed two crew members and injured three others, according to SPA.
The Houthis said they had launched a ballistic missile at a coalition military base on the Red Sea island of Zuqar between Yemen and Eritrea on Tuesday morning, posting video of the attack on their news channel, Al-Masira.
Meanwhile, Yemeni security forces killed an Al-Qaeda leader in the province of Lahj during a raid on Tuesday, police said.
Ammar Qaid, known as Al-Qaeda’s “emir” in Lahj, was killed in an exchange of fire with “counter-terrorism” forces after refusing to surrender, said provincial police chief Saleh Sayed.
The raid in the provincial capital Huta was carried out as part of a vast operation backed by an Arab military coalition against the terrorists in Aden, Abyan and Lahj, in southwestern Yemen.
They are three of five provinces under the control of government forces at war with Iran-backed Shiite rebels.
In southern Hadramawt, meanwhile, suspected Al-Qaeda militants shot dead policeman Ali Al-Bekri on Monday night in the town of Qotn before fleeing, a security source told AFP.
In the north of the country, heavy clashes on Monday killed 21 loyalist soldiers and seven rebels in Midi and Haradh, military sources said.
The pro-government forces had come under fire in a minefield as they advanced, said one source.
Separately, Yemen believes that US President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on certain Muslims traveling to the US supports extremists, a news agency run by the government has reported.
“We resent the US ban … such decisions support the stance of extremists and sow divisions,” the SABA news agency quoted a source at the Foreign Ministry as saying.
The country on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is one of seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens face a 90-day ban on entering the US.
Yemen’s northern regions, including the capital Sanaa and the country’s largest international airport, are controlled by the Houthis group while its internationally recognized government is based in the south and east.
Yemen’s long-running conflict escalated in March 2015 when the coalition began bombing raids against the Houthis who had stormed the capital.