JEDDAH: Yemen’s national army, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, is on the verge of recapturing the strategically vital Red Sea port of Hodeidah from Houthi militias backed by Iran.
The liberation of the port would effectively cut off supplies of arms and ammunition to the Houthis from the Iranian regime, including equipment used to fire missiles into Saudi Arabia from northern Yemen.
Yemeni government fighters backed by the coalition launched the operation last week to enter Hodeidah city and seize the rebel-held port. Up to 20 government troops and more than 90 Houthis have been killed in fighting since last Wednesday.
A Yemeni military source said: “The army launched raids on pockets of militia in the districts of Tahita and Beit Al-Faqih and Husseiniya on Thursday and Friday,” and clashes between the army and remaining militants in the region continued on Saturday as government forces advanced toward Hodeidah airport.
Houthi militias ambushed a Yemeni military convoy in the Hodeidah coastal district of Al-Durayhmi, a coalition military source said on Saturday.
Hodeidah is 230 km from the capital, Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen the following year.
Because of Hodeidah’s role as a supply route for weapons for the Houthis from Iran, the port has been subject to a partial blockade by coalition naval forces. It is also a lifeline from which most of the Yemeni population obtains food and medicine, and the UN said it was “extremely concerned” about the situation.
“Hodeidah, the so-called big battle, has been looming now for 18 months with ups and downs,” said Robert Mardini, Middle East regional director for the Red Cross.
“It’s a densely populated area where any military scenario will risk coming at a huge human cost.”
On Friday, Yemen’s army liberated positions on the outskirts of the Hajjah province from the Houthis, Al-Ekhbariya channel reported.
The armed forces’ media center said that heavy losses were inflicted on the militia.