ADEN, Yemen– Up to 50 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 100 others wounded when random mortar shells struck a refugee camp in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Wednesday, a medical official and witnesses told Xinhua.

“Several mortar rounds and tank shells randomly struck a refugee camp in Tawahi district of Aden, while hundreds of people were gathering and preparing to escape from fierce battles by boats to other places,” the local medical official of Aden’s health department said on condition of anonymity.

According to the initial counts from local medical centers, 50 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the incident.

Witnesses near the scene confirmed to Xinhua by phone that “scores of civilians were either killed or wounded after being hit by random shells while they were trying to reach small boats to flee fighting in Tawahi.”

The fighting between the Shiite Houthi group and tribal militia loyal to Yemen’s President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi escalated in Aden’s town of Tawahi, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes by boats to the Buraiga district in western Aden.

So far, neither side has commented on the incident.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes due to fierce street battles between the two sides since late March.

The pro-Hadi militia covered by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition forces on Wednesday failed to repel an attack by the Houthi gunmen who stormed and took control of the densely populated Tawahi town of Aden province, where key government facilities and headquarters of the Fourth Regional Military Command are located, according to government officials based in Aden.

Several sources in the area said tens of thousands of residents that fled their homes in Tawahi, Mu’alla and Crater had sought refuge in neighboring areas as the fierce battles between the two warring rivals and Saudi-led airstrikes were heavily intensified during the past three days.

A security source confirmed to Xinhua that the Houthi gunmen killed Major General Ali Nasser Hadi, the commander of the Fourth Regional Military Command that announced loyalty to Hadi, during armed confrontations near the main entrance of the Tawahi district in Aden early on Wednesday.

Experts said that the Houthi gunmen backed by some army units gained ground during the fighting against the pro-Hadi militia.

They said that the pro-Houthi forces advanced from several directions toward the strategic town of Tawahi after they have seized several towns around the area, prompting the Saudi-led coalition forces to launch intensified airstrikes on Houthi-controlled buildings in the area on Wednesday afternoon.

Information on the number of casualties and extent of damages caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes remains unclear.

Yemen’s southern provinces have witnessed an escalation of battles since late March when deadly armed clashes erupted between Houthi gunmen and tribal militia linked to President Hadi who is currently taking refuge in Saudi Arabia after fleeing his presidential palace in Aden.

The deadly fighting still flares over the control of the main port city of Aden and about five other southern provinces amid sharp shortages of basic needs such as foods, drinking water, medicine and fuel supplies. (PNA/Xinhua)

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