KHOKHA: Reinforcements rolled into Yemen’s Hodeidah Thursday as the army and its regional allies set their sights on the city’s port held by rebels who have vowed to fight to the end.
Military sources said the army, backed by troops from the United Arab Emirates, had been sending backup troops to the area ahead of a major offensive to close in on the Red Sea port.
“Our preparations are in their final stages for the advance on the port,” a military source told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia have refused to cede control of Hodeidah port, the entry point of three quarters of imports to impoverished Yemen.
The Houthis have controlled the port since 2014, when they drove the government out of the capital and seized much of northern Yemen and a string of Red Sea ports.
On June 13, Yemen’s army and its allies launched their offensive to clear Hodeidah of the rebels, raising UN concerns for vital aid shipments and food imports through the city’s docks.
The pro-government forces announced the capture of the Hodeidah airport on Wednesday morning.
The airport had been disused but it housed a major rebel base just inland from the coastal road into the city.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Thursday that the “full, peaceful, and unconditional withdrawal” of Houthi militia from the city of Hodeidah and its port is the only way to ensure that the situation in the city and its surroundings does not deteriorate.
Gargash added in a tweet that Houthi militias are “blocking off-loading of aid at Hodeida port,” destroying water and sewage systems, and indiscriminately placing mines, IEDs, snipers and heavy weaponry in residential areas.
Most humanitarian aid to Yemen comes through Hodeidah port, but it is also a conduit for the supply of weapons and ammunition from Iran to the Houthi militias, including missiles used to target Saudi Arabia.
Iran-backed Houthi militia leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on Wednesday night called for reinforcements to repel the advancing Yemeni army backed by coalition forces after ongoing fighting left nearly 350 people dead in one week.
Hodeidah’s residents are now bracing for what they fear will be devastating street fighting, as tanks and buses carrying uniformed troops roll through the empty streets of the once-bustling city.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition said that the Yemeni army has advanced on the city of Saada and has liberated the villages of Roqi, Al-Gharza, Haram, and Rubaan.