Al Mukalla: Yemeni government forces made gains around the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha in heavy fighting overnight and pushed back against rebels in Taiz as they rebuffed a rebel counter-offensive, a military source said on Thursday.

Seven loyalist troops and 16 rebels were killed in the fighting in Mokha, hospital sources said. Twelve soldiers and 28 rebels were wounded.

Fierce battles also broke out on Thursday between the government forces and Al Houthi fighters outside a military camp in the southern province of Taiz as other loyalists entered the Red Sea Yakhtul village, army commanders said on Thursday.

Major Mohsen Khasrouf, the chief of Yemen’s Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department, told Gulf News that the government forces are now battling the rebel forces on the edges of Khalid Bin Walid military camp, east of Mokha town, shortly after other army troops stormed the village of Yakhtul and Al Nar mountain in Taiz.

“The government forces are on the verge of taking control of the camp as most of Al Houthis abandoned their positions,” Khasrouf said. Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Majili, Yemen army spokesperson, told Gulf News on Thursday the army troops recaptured all hilly positions surrounding the camp and seized arms from the fleeing rebels. Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition carried heavy air raids on the rebels’ sites and military enforcements that arrived from Hodeida to the battlegrounds on Taiz. If the Yemeni forces take control of the military camp, they would cut off resupply route from Hodeida to the rebel forces in Taiz, Majili said.

Hodeida is the government forces’ next goal as it is the main Red Sea port and a vital conduit for UN-supervised aid deliveries to rebel-held areas.

Khasrouf said that the government forces along with military advisers from the Saudi-led coalition are combing the village of Yakhtul searching for snipers or landmines. “Yakhtul is a beautiful resort on the Red Sea. This shows that the government forces are making progress in the offensive despite Al Houthi resistance.”

The advances come less than a day after a missile fired by Al Houthis killed Major General Ahmad Sayef Al Yafae, the deputy of the army’s chief of staff and a number of his associates.

Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Wednesday posthumously awarded the bravery medals to Al Yafae and several other generals who were killed in clashes with Al Houthi and Al Qaida. In a statement, Hadi vowed to defeat Al Houthis and ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

General Fadhel Hassan, the commander of Aden-based 4th Military Region, said that the death of General Al Yafae would not hinder the current military offensive along the western coast and the forces would push until they reach Hodeida. Backed by the Saudi-led coalition,

Yemen army troops launched early last month the Golden Arrow Operation which aimed at liberating the entire western coast of the country from Al Houthi fighters, including the port city of Hodeida and securing the vital Bab Al Mandab Strait from Al Houthi missiles. — with inputs from AFP