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Forces of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the rebel group are fighting in the southwestern Yemeni region of Bab el-Mandeb, a vital passage for around 3.8 million barrels daily of Middle Eastern crude to overseas markets.
Control of the passage is naturally important for both sides. The Saudi-led coalition cannot allow the Houthis to take it over because according to Emirati new outlet The National, they could use it to blackmail their enemies, paralyzing oil trade via the passage.
This is why, the daily reported this weekend, forces loyal to the elected Yemeni government and UAE troops staged an offensive against the Houthis, “pushing the last remaining rebels out of the region of Dhubab,” along the Red Sea coast.
The offensive was part of an advance on the city of Mokha, a major port on the coast. According to the latest reports from The National, the coalition forces had captured two areas along the road to the port city.
Iranian Press TV, quoting Yemeni TV channel al-Masirah, corroborated the fact there was an advance on Mokha, noting Saudi airstrikes on the city itself as well as two districts around it.
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At the same time, reports from Iran’s Fars News agency quoted a Houthi military source as saying the Houthi army had inflicted “heavy military equipment losses” on coalition forces near Bab el-Mandeb, with 40 coalition fighters killed in the clash.
The conflict in Yemen, which observers call a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, has been raging since the spring of 2015, after the Houthi rebels forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor to the north. The Shiite Houthis are allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival. The international community recognizes Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate leader.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.