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Airstrikes and clashes kill 51 in Yemen

ADEN, Dec 15, 2017 (AFP) – Saudi-led airstrikes have killed 28 Houthi rebels around Yemen’s west coast, medics and security sources close to the insurgents said Friday, as government forces reported deadly clashes in the south.

The security sources said airstrikes on Thursday and Friday hit five towns controlled by the Houthis around 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of Hodeidah.

Medical sources said 28 Houthis were killed and 17 wounded in the attacks.

Yemeni government forces retook Beihan district in Shabwa province from the Houthis, their last stronghold in the oil-rich southern province, a senior officer said Friday.

The capture of Beihan came during clashes that killed 14 rebels and nine pro-government troops, the officer said.

There has been no let-up in the air campaign against the rebels that a Saudi-led coalition has been waging since March 2015.

The airstrikes have intensified since the December 4 killing of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh at the hands of the Houthis after his alliance with the rebels collapsed.

At the same time, forces of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government have stepped up attacks on the rebels and last week retook the Red Sea town of Khokha from the Houthis.

The security sources said new clashes broke out on Friday as government forces tried to push towards Hodeidah.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it was “bracing for further displacement and a spike in humanitarian needs as hostilities intensify in frontline areas on Yemen’s west coast.”

Hudaydah is the main conduit for U.N.-supervised deliveries of food and medicine, but the port is controlled by the Houthis and remains closed, forcing the U.N. to divert aid supplies to other areas.

“To date we have deployed emergency relief items for 2,000 families in Hodeidah, and a further 2,000 aid kits are on their way along with 2,000 emergency shelter kits,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

“As the port of Hodeidah remains closed an additional 43 containers with emergency, shelter and household aid, including plastic tarpaulins and blankets for more than 20,000 families, had to be diverted to Aden,” it added.

More than 2,000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8,600 killed in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and rebels since 2015.

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