Heavy fighting in Yemen between pro-government forces and Shiite rebels killed at least 28 people on both sides, security and medical officials said Saturday.
Government forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, have been advancing along the western coast in recent weeks as they battle the rebels, known as Houthis.
The rebels killed 18 pro-government forces and wounded 30 in an attack Friday on the government-held town of el-Faza that last eight hours, the officials said.
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Government forces eventually repelled the attack, killing at least 10 rebel fighters, the officials said. Battles raged for the fourth day in a row elsewhere along the western coast, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Government forces have been planning an all-out assault on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, the main point of entry for aid to the war-ravaged country. They have driven the rebels from dozens of nearby villages and towns.
Hodeida’s port is a vital lifeline from which most of the Yemeni population gets food and medicine. The United Nations said Tuesday it is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Hodeida. In March, Amnesty International said fighting along Yemen’s west coast has displaced 100,000 people in recent months, mostly from Hodeida, warning that the “the worst could be yet to come.”
A Saudi-led coalition has been locked in a stalemated war in Yemen with the Iran-backed Houthis since March 2015. The coalition accuses the Houthis of bringing Iranian arms in through Hodeida,
accusations denied by the rebels.
The three-year conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million. It has also damaged Yemen’s infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed it to the brink of famine.
The U.N. considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance.
Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.