More than four years after seizing the capital, the Houthis have consolidated their grip over large parts of Yemen.
Yemeni fighters say they have hit a vessel operated by the United Arab Emirates military, which is part of an Arab coalition fighting in support of Yemen’s government.
The UAE military said on Saturday that a boat under its command was involved in an “incident” in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. It said there were no casualties.
“Rockets targeted an Emirati warship as it approached the coast of Mokha” on the Red Sea, Yemen’s Houthi fighters said in a statement on their sabanews.net website.
“It was completely destroyed,” said the Iran-allied Houthis.
A video posted on social media, purporting to be a footage of the incident, showed a vessel being targeted at night and later was on fire. Al Jazeera could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video.
In a statement published by the official WAM news agency, the Emirati military said the boat was on a routine trip from Aden, further south, and that an investigation has begun.
It said the boat had been hired, but did not provide more details or say if the vessel was damaged.
The UAE is a key member of the coalition that has been battling Houthi fighters and their allies since March last year in support of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.
— Military Advisor (@miladvisor) October 1, 2016
Since March 2015, the Arab coalition, assembled by Saudi Arabia, has pushed the opposition fighters out of much of Yemen’s south, but they still control nearly all of the country’s Red Sea coast as well as chunks of territory around Sanaa.
In the northern province of Jawf, pro-government forces on Saturday recaptured large parts of the town of Ghail after clashes that killed 11 opposition fighters and five loyalists, military sources said.
Jawf is on the border with Saudi Arabia and is mostly controlled by loyalist forces.
In the Bab al-Mandeb region itself, fighting on Saturday killed three loyalists and wounded 17, other military sources said.
The clashes took place in the mountainous Kahbub area overlooking the strait.
Five fighters were also killed, the loyalist military sources said.
AFP news agency could not verify the fighters’ toll from independent sources, and they rarely acknowledge their losses.
Loyalist forces recaptured Perim island in the Bab al-Mandeb strait in October last year, gaining a foothold on the strategic shipping lane which connects the Suez Canal and Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
But the fighters still control some of the heights which overlook the strait from the mainland, where there has been fierce fighting in recent days.
Military sources in Yemen told AFP that the fighters shelled a loyalist military camp in the Bab al-Mandeb area on Saturday.
More than 6,700 people, including civilians, have been killed in the Yemeni conflict since the coalition began its air campaign in March 2015, the UN says.