Aden: At least 26 Yemeni fighters died in fresh clashes and an air strike as government forces advanced against Shiite Huthi rebels near a key shipping strait, medics and officials said Saturday.
A week-long assault by government forces and their allies aims to expel the Iran-backed Huthis from Dhubab region, close to the Bab al-Mandab strait linking the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
Twelve bodies of Huthi insurgents were taken early Saturday to a hospital in rebel-held Hodeida, a medical official said, adding that the facility received 23 others wounded.
He said the casualties were from clashes on Friday night in Dhubab.
An overnight air strike by a pro-government Arab coalition on a rebel assembly in Zaydiya, in Hodeida province, left another nine Huthis dead, a security official said.
The Red Sea port city of Hodeida lies some 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Dhubab.
A medical official at a hospital in the southern city of Aden said five pro-government fighters were killed in overnight clashes around Dhubab and 14 others wounded.
Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and allied fighters from the Popular Resistance have entered the town of Dhubab and seized its local government headquarters.
Popular Resistance commander Abdelrahman al-Muharami said the loyalists had also recaptured large parts of Al-Omeri military base in mountains overlooking the coast.
“There are still some rebel pockets” in the base, he said.
The government and its allies in the Saudi-led coalition recaptured Bab al-Mandab strait in October 2015, pushing the rebels further north.
But the rebels still control nearly all of Yemen’s Red Sea coast to the north, posing what the coalition says is a threat to international shipping.
Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 7,400 people and wounded nearly 40,000 since it escalated with the coalition intervention in March 2015 after the Huthis seized large swathes of the country, according to the United Nations.
In another bid to reassert government authority, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher said Saturday that his administration will start transferring salaries to state employees in rebel-held areas.
Public sector employees in rebel-controlled areas have struggled since Hadi moved the central bank from Sanaa to the temporary capital of Aden in June, after accusing the insurgents of running down Yemen’s foreign reserves.
Dagher said government employees “across all provinces” will receive their salaries at post offices and exchange outlets, state news agency Saba reported.