Government reinforcements promise decisive end to Hodeidah battle
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-allied Houthi rebels have refused to cede control of Hodeidah port, the entry point of three quarters of imports to impoverished Yemen.
UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said the rebels’ full withdrawal “is the only route to avert worsening the situation in and around the city.”
“We will not allow Houthis to divert us from our strategic goals. We will continue to exert military pressure and respect the fragile humanitarian conditions,” he wrote on Twitter.
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.
Four pro-government fighters and 22 Houthis have been killed in the past 24 hours, medical sources said Thursday, bringing the death toll in the battle for Hodeidah to 374.
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.
Rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi on Wednesday night called for reinforcements to repel the advance of the UAE-backed government forces.
Local 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.
The UAE’s foreign minister accused the rebels of laying mines and moving weaponry and snipers into residential areas.
The Hodeidah offensive, dubbed Operation Golden Victory, is the most intense battlefront in the already-brutal Yemen war which has left millions displaced.