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Thirty-two combatants were killed in the battle for a key coastal town in western Yemen between government forces and Shiite Houthi rebels, officials said.

The deaths occurred as forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Masnour Hadi advanced into neighbourhoods of Mokha and Houthis retreated to northern and western parts of the town, military sources said.

Loyalists backed by the firepower of a Saudi-led Arab coalition entered the strategic port town in late January as part of their efforts to drive the rebels away from the Red Sea coast.

The clashes on Wednesday left dead 24 rebel fighters, including 12 whose bodies were taken a hospital in Mokha, medical officials said.

The other 12 were rebels whose remains were found by advancing troops and later buried in Mokha, a loyalist military official said.

Eight soldiers were killed, military and medical officials said.

Mokha was Yemen's main port serving as its export hub for coffee until it was overtaken by Aden and Hodeida in the 19th century.

Forces supporting Hadi, backed by the coalition, began a major offensive on Jan 7 to recapture the coastline overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait.

More than 400 combatants have been killed since government forces launched their drive up the Red Sea coastline.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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