JEDDAH: Yemeni government forces fighting n have taken the main hospital from the Houthi militia in the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, government military officials said Saturday.
The May 22 Hospital lies in the east of the militia-held city, a key aid conduit that is the target of a renewed offensive by the Saudi and Emirati-backed government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Yemeni government forces backed by the Arab coalition launched a “vast offensive” to take full control of Hodeidah on Friday.
The internationally recognized government based in the southern city of Aden said national army forces had advanced toward the north and western sides of the city.
“Fierce battles are taking place at these moments,” the statement said.
A total of 110 Houthi rebels have been killed in the last 24 hours of clashes in Hodeidah along with 22 pro-government troops fighting to retake the port city, AFP reported Friday.
The latest deaths raised to 382 the number of fighters killed on both sides since the battle for Hodeidah intensified on November 1.
The offensive follows a week of fighting as pro-government troops advanced into the city’s suburbs.
The Houthis have controlled Hodeidah since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and the north of the country.
They have been driven out of virtually all of the south and much of the Red Sea coast by pro-government forces and the Arab coalition, which intervened to restore the government in 2015.
The offensive comes as it emerged Donald Trump’s administration is thinking about classifying the Iran backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, the Washington Post reported.
The move would be part of a US campaign to end the war in Yemen and put pressure on Iran.
The terrorist classification, which would be made by the State Department, has been discussed frequently since at least 2016. But the matter was reviewed recently as the White House tries to outline a tough stance on Iranian-linked groups across the Middle East, the newspaper reported.
A variety of potential actions that could be taken against the Houthi militia, including lesser measures to punish them, have been considered by the administration.
However, a decision has not yet been made and it is unclear how far deliberations about the terrorist classification had progressed.
Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in Hodeidah could further exacerbate the desperate humanitarian situation in the country.
The United Nations’ refugee agency said on Friday that most of the 600,000 population of Hodeida has fled but expressed concern about those trapped in the city.
The war in Yemen has become focussed in Hodeidah, the country’s biggest port and main point of imports, including aid.