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More than 50 dead in Yemen fighting near key shipping lane

The Yemeni government and its allies say the presence of rebels near Bab al-Mandab Strait poses a threat to international shipping
Smoke billows in the distance during clashes between Yemeni pro-government forces patrol and rebels about 30 kms north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait on 9 January, 2017 (AFP)

Fighting in Yemen has killed 55 rebels and soldiers in two days after the government launched a major offensive in a coastal area near key shipping lanes, officials said Wednesday.

Government forces began the assault on Saturday in a bid to recapture the Dhubab district near the Bab al-Mandab Strait which links the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Troops clashed with Houthi Shia rebels on Wednesday at a key military base in the region, leaving five soldiers and 12 rebels dead, loyalist military sources said.

The Yemeni government and its allies say the presence of rebels near the key waterway poses a threat to international shipping.

On Tuesday aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government attacked two Houthi boats in the Red Sea port of Salif, killing 31 fighters, a government military official said.

The death toll was confirmed by a source at a military hospital in Hodeida who said many more rebels were wounded.

In the southern province of Shabwa, seven government soldiers were killed and 12 wounded on Wednesday in Katyusha rocket fire from a pocket of rebel territory, military sources said.

More than 7,300 people have been killed and 39,000 wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Houthis in March 2015, according to the World Health Organisation.

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