48,000 displaced by battles around Yemen's Mokha: UN

Published: 02nd March 2017 12:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd March 2017 12:39 AM   |  A+A-


DUBAI: Fighting around the historic Yemeni port of Mokha has forced more than 48,000 people from their homes, a UN official said Wednesday, with many facing the threat of further displacement.

Shabia Mantoo, Yemen spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency, told AFP more than 48,000 people had left Mokha and the nearby town of Dhubab in recent weeks.

Fighting has intensified along Yemen's Red Sea coast, where forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are battling to retake large parts of the country seized by Shiite Huthi rebels.

Loyalist troops took Mokha on February 10 and announced they aimed to push north and take the country's main Red Sea port of Hodeida next. 

Mantoo said many of those fleeing the fighting around Mokha made their way north to Ibb district and Hodeida province.

"Eight thousand people have been displaced from Mokha and Dhubab to Hodeida alone, many of them with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs," Mantoo said. 

"The whole country is suffering from multiple displacement," Mantoo said. 

"People move from one place to another, because eventually it gets just as bad."

The UN estimates three million people have been displaced across Yemen. 

The Huthi rebels launched a deadly counter-offensive after losing control of Mokha last month but were overpowered as government troops, backed by an Arab coalition, consolidated their grip on the area, inching a few kilometres (miles) north and east. 

Allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Iran-backed Huthis continue to control most of Yemen's 450-kilometre (280-mile) Red Sea coast, the capital Sanaa and much of the northern highlands.

The new figure on internally displaced persons marks a sharp rise from UNHCR data released on February 10, which reported 34,000 people displaced since January around Mokha and Dhubab.

Coalition air strikes on the island of Kamaran, off the Hodeida coast, killed 15 rebels and wounded 11 others on Wednesday, military and medical sources said. 

Five more rebels were killed in an air strike that targeted a vehicle near Hodeida, according to both a military official and a medic at Thawra hospital in Hodeida.

UN mediation efforts and seven ceasefires have failed to end the conflict, which has left more than 7,500 dead and 40,000 people wounded.

UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O'Brien on Monday warned the impoverished country now also faces a "serious risk of famine".

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