Aden (AFP) – More than 40 troops and rebels have been killed in several days of clashes between Yemen’s Saudi-backed army and insurgents allied with Iran near the Red Sea port of Mokha, officials said Sunday.
Fighting has intensified around the Khaled Ibn al-Walid military base east of Mokha since government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition seized it from the Huthi rebels last week.
Sixteen Huthis and seven soldiers were killed in overnight clashes and air raids outside Mokha, according to military officials and witnesses at hospitals in the area.
Twenty Yemeni soldiers were also killed in a rebel strike on the Khaled base in Taiz province, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Mokha, on Thursday, a military official there said.
The port of Mokha on the Red Sea, a key waterway for international trade and imports, is under army control.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, on Saturday said the Huthis had attacked the port with a remote-controlled boat carrying explosives.
No casualties were reported in the attack, which the Shiite rebels claimed hit a battleship from the United Arab Emirates.
The coalition also said a ballistic missile fired by the Huthis was shot down on Thursday near Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the site of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage that falls next month.
Backed by the coalition, the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has battled the Huthi rebels for control of the impoverished country for two years.
More than 8,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
A cholera outbreak has also claimed the lives of more than 1,800 people since April, with 400,000 suspected cases across the country, according to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The United Nations last week warned 80 percent of Yemen’s children were in desperate need of aid in what the organisation has described as the “largest humanitarian…