Yemen fighting flares at vital Red Sea strait
SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni military officials close to the country's Shiite Houthi rebels said Thursday that the rebels are trading fire with warships from the Saudi-led military coalition near the Bab al-Mandab strait, the strategic southern entrance to the Red Sea and the gateway to the Suez Canal.
Land clashes occurred as well near the strait between units loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and rebel forces.
The pro-Hadi units were backed by air support from the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Houthi positions and has sent reinforcements from the nearby southern port city of Aden, according to security and military officials, who have remained neutral in the conflict that has splintered the country.
The Houthis have been in control of the strategic area for several months and still control the vast majority of the area near Bab al-Mandab, according to the officials.
The United Nations says at least 2,355 civilians have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March, when a Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against Houthis and allied army units. The Houthis have been in control of the capital Sanaa since last September and are at war with the internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists.
Saudi and Egyptian warships have been deployed off the coast of Yemen to secure the strategically vital Bab al-Mandab. The strait is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.