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Yemen captures key town from Houthis
December 08, 2017
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SANAA: A Western-backed Saudi-led coalition scored its first major gains in Yemen since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed on Monday when local fighters captured an area on the Red Sea coast from Houthi rebels, residents said on Thursday.

Local fighters loyal to Saleh, who was killed by the Iran-aligned Houthis after switching sides in the civil war, captured Al Khoukha district about 350 km south-west of the capital Sanaa after heavy fighting over Wednesday night which also involved coalition forces.

Houthi forces control Sanaa and much of the rest of the impoverished country, where three years of war has killed more than 10,000 people and brought it to the verge of famine.

Saleh had helped the Houthis win control of Sanaa and much of the north and his decision to abandon them had major implications on the battlefield.

The Houthis crushed a pro-Saleh uprising in the capital and shot him dead in an attack on his convoy on Dec.4.

The US and UK-backed Saudi-led coalition has stepped up air strikes on Yemen since then as Houthi forces have tightened their grip on the capital.

Residents said Saleh’s killing spurred opposition to the Houthis and fighters known as the Southern Resistance, together with other local militia and backed by coalition advisers, launched attacks on Al Khoukha on Wednesday.

When Saleh switched sides he announced he was ready to end a nearly three-year-old war- if the Saudi-led coalition agreed to stop attacks on the country.

Khoukha lies between rebel-held Hodeida and government-controlled Mokha on the Red Sea coast and is central to the expansion of government control over the strategic coastline.

The port of Hodeida is the main conduit for UN-supervised deliveries of food and medicine to Yemen.

Residents of Sanaa said the southern districts -- the most contested during the clashes -- were still paralysed in the wake of the fighting, with the majority of shops shuttered and streets largely deserted, the remnants of the battle still littering the ground.

“We couldn’t open our shop for the fourth day in a row,” said Yasser, the owner of a minimarket.

“We’re afraid, the situation is ambiguous and we have no faith in the gunmen in civilian clothes patrolling the city.”

Banks, schools and government institutions remained closed.

Agencies

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