Coalition forces 4km from Hodeidah in new drive to recapture port city

Coalition forces 4km from Hodeidah in new drive to recapture port city
A column of Yemeni pro-government forces and armored vehicles arrives in al-Durayhimi district, about nine kilometers south of Hodeidah international airport on June 13, 2018. Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition are close to taking the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hodeida, officials said on Sunday. (AFP file photo)
Updated 05 November 2018

Coalition forces 4km from Hodeidah in new drive to recapture port city

Coalition forces 4km from Hodeidah in new drive to recapture port city
  • Fighting on Sunday was focused on the airport, where a previous coalition offensive was suspended
  • Fifty-three Houthis have been killed and dozens wounded in battles and airstrikes over the past 24 hours

JEDDAH: Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition drove closer to the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Sunday in a renewed offensive to recapture it from Iran-backed Houthi militias.

The coalition has deployed thousands more troops since last Thursday to retake the port, a key entry point for Iranian-supplied arms and ammunition, including parts for missiles used to attack Saudi Arabia.

Fighting on Sunday was focused on the airport, where a previous coalition offensive was suspended, at the eastern entrance to the city, and near the university 4km south of the port.

“This is the first time clashes have reached this point,” a pro-coalition Yemeni military source said.

Fifty-three Houthis have been killed and dozens wounded in battles and airstrikes over the past 24 hours. Military officials said coalition warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes early on Sunday to support pro-government ground forces.

The recapture of Hodeidah would deliver a blow to the Houthis, who still control the most populated areas of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, by cutting their main supply line and forcing them to the negotiating table.

The coalition halted a previous attempt to take the city in June, to allow space for UN-led peace consultations in Geneva. However, the process collapsed in September after the Houthis failed to appear unless the UN guaranteed the evacuation of their wounded fighters.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said last week he hoped consultations could restart within a month. He is preparing to visit Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city and a flashpoint since the Houthis drove the government out of Sanaa in 2014.

The alliance led by Saudi Arabia, with the UAE, intervened in 2015 to oust the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government.

The latest clashes around Hodeidah erupted last Thursday just hours after the government said it was ready to restart peace talks.