Yemen army claims control of port city of al-Makha

Army forces enter southwestern port city of al-Makha, as dozens of families flee ongoing clashes and bombardments.

Saudi-backed Yemeni government fighters ahead of offensive
The government forces say rebels were using al-Mokha port to smuggle weapons into Yemen [Reuters]

The Yemeni army said it has taken full control of al-Makha (Mocha), a port city southwest of the capital Sanaa which had been taken by Houthi rebels in November 2014.

Brigade General Ahmed Seif al-Yafai said in press remarks on Monday that his forces entered al-Makha, where dozens of families were seen fleeing days of clashes and bombardment.

Government forces were combing the port, an AFP news agency journalist accompanying the troops said.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war nearly two years ago to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was overthrown from the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces.

READ MORE: Yemen’s orphans face ‘catastrophe’ as fighting rages

The latest development came almost three weeks after the Hadi loyalists launched an offensive against the rebels and their allies on Yemen’s southwestern coast.

Warplanes and Apache attack helicopters from a Saudi-led Arab coalition have been pounding the rebels in support of pro-Hadi forces, military sources told AFP.

‘Weapons smuggling’

Government forces said the rebels were using the port in al-Makha to smuggle weapons into Yemen.

At least 10,000 people have died in the mostly stalemated Yemeni conflict, which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the already poor Arabian Peninsula country.

Millions living with hunger in war-torn Yemen

While government forces in the south and east nominally hold most of Yemen’s territory, Hadi has struggled to enforce state authority among various armed groups and tribes.

The Houthi rebels control most of Yemen’s population centres in the northwest, including Sanaa.

Gulf Arab countries say the Houthi rebels are a proxy for their archrival Iran – a charge Tehran denies.

They and Hadi’s government say their campaign aims to protect the Bab el-Mandeb strait, the strategic waterway at the foot of the Red Sea through which nearly four million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the US and Asia.

Source: News Agencies