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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Yemeni forces seize positions south of Hodeidah city

More than 40 rebels killed in air strikes and fighting as coalition and government forces press campaign for vital port

A photo distributed by the Houthi Military Media Unit shows the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia March 25, 2018. Houthi Military Media Unit / Handout via Reuters
A photo distributed by the Houthi Military Media Unit shows the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia March 25, 2018. Houthi Military Media Unit / Handout via Reuters

The Yemen army's Al Amalikah Brigade seized two areas south of Hodeidah after fierce clashes on Saturday as it prepared for a push towards the rebel-held port city.

Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed and eight were captured in the battles at Al Shogaireh and Al Noukhaila, about 14 kilometres south of the port city, brigade spokesman Aseel Al Sakladi told The National.

As government forces backed by the Arab military coalition draw closer to the city, the brigade has summoned all its fighters on leave back to the Hodeidah front, Mr Al Sakladi said.

At least 43 rebels were killed in coalition air strikes and clashes with pro-government forces across Hodeidah province, the UAE state news agency Wam reported.

Coalition jets bombarded Houthi positions east of Hais, north of Zubaid, west of Bait Al Faqih and at Al Hosaynia, inflicting heavy damage on the Iran-backed rebels, Wam said.

Pro-government militias also foiled a rebel attempt to enter the Al Jah area west of Bait Al Faqih and scores of Houthis were arrested.

The advance by government and coalition forces in Hodeidah province has seen the rebels suffer some of their biggest losses since they seized the capital Sanaa in September 2014. The Saudi-led coalition, in which the UAE is a key member, intervened in the conflict in March 2015.

The coalition said the rebels fired two missiles towards the Saudi city of Najran on Friday but neither caused any damage. One of the missiles fell inside Yemen's Saada province bordering Saudi Arabia while the other landed in a Saudi desert area.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al Maliki said the missile attack showed that the Iranian regime was continuing to supply the Houthis with weapons.

In April, Saudi Arabia's air defence forces intercepted three ballistic missiles fired by Houthis at Riyadh and other Saudi cities. The escalation of rocket fire has threatened to deepen the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region's two powerhouses.

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