SANA’A, Aug. 6 — At least 17 Yemeni soldiers and 31 Houthi rebels were killed in clashes and airstrikes over the past three days near the Yemeni-Saudi western border, a government military source told Xinhua on Sunday.
The casualties took place when the government troops backed by warplanes from a Saudi-led military coalition launched a major offensive against Houthi positions in the Red Sea port city of Medi and nearby Haradh district off Saudi southwestern border region of Jizan.
The attack, began Thursday, was launched by the Yemeni government forces backed by Saudi border artillery forces and more than 20 air strikes against Houthi positions in al-Kadif areas in southern Medi and in al-Hajawirah area and al-Majbar area in southern Haradh, according to the source.
“Bodies of Houthis were still lying on some of the targeted positions, while several other injured were taken as war prisoners,” the source said on condition of anonymity as he declined to identify the numbers of Houthi prisoners.
He said the attack aimed to recapture Houthi-held areas and advance towards the coasts north of the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
“The government troops reached and seized control over some Houthi-held positions, but slowed their advances because of the heavily mined desert,” he said, adding that many Houthi weapons depots were bombed by the warplanes.
A Houthi spokesman could not be reached for comment, but Houthi official media reported around 20 coalition’s air strikes on Medi and Haradh over the past 72 hours and mentioned no casualties.
Also, Houthi-controlled Saba news agency reported late on Saturday that Houthi fighters fired two ballistic missiles on the coalition troops in Medi and Haradh, “inflicting heavy losses upon the troops.”
Yemen’s internationally-backed government, allied with the Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has for more than two years been battling Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels over control of the country.
The coalition began a military air campaign in March 2015 to roll back Houthi gains and reinstate exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to the power.
The coalition also imposed air and sea blockade to prevent weapons from reaching Houthis, who had invaded the capital Sanaa militarily and seized most of the northern Yemeni provinces.
UN statistics show more than 10,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the coalition intervened in the Yemeni civil war that also displaced around three million.
The impoverished Arab country is also suffering the world’s largest cholera epidemic since April, with about 5,000 cases reported every day.