Operation Golden Victory shows coalition’s resolve to defeat Houthis
LONDON - Yemeni pro-government and coalition forces took control of Hodeidah International Airport, 72 hours after launching Operation Golden Victory to capture the key port of Hodeidah from Iran-allied rebels.
“Breaking: army forces supported by the resistance and the Arab coalition liberate #Hodeidah international airport from the grasp of the Houthi militias. The engineering team is starting to cleanse the airport and surrounding areas from mines and explosive devices,” the media wing of the internationally recognised government of Yemen said on Twitter.
The Associated Press quoted Yemeni officials as saying that dozens of pro-government fighters had been killed since Golden Victory began on June 13 while the bodies of Houthi fighters were strewn across the front lines.
The United Arab Emirates, whose ground forces played a central role in the battle for Hodeidah, reported four casualties on the first day of operations. Nine Yemeni soldiers were killed, while 30 fatalities were reported among Houthi ranks.
A dispute between the Yemeni government and the United Arab Emirates seemed to have been resolved, unifying the ranks of the anti-Houthi coalition. Tensions between the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the UAE over the latter’s relations with Yemen’s southern separatists flared when UAE forces were accused of occupying the Yemeni island of Socotra. Saudi Arabia stepped in to mediate a truce.
Hadi travelled to Abu Dhabi on June 13 and met with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to discuss the fight against the Houthis and humanitarian relief efforts, the Yemeni pro-government Saba news agency said.
Sheikh Mohammed noted that the meeting coincided with the anniversary of the liberation of Aden and that “more victories will follow.”
Saudi and UAE media said Operation Golden Victory would force the rebels to the negotiation table. Saudi media outlets carried statements by Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jaber saying: “I bring you good news… Hodeidah is being liberated and Yemen is breathing.”
The day after the operation began, Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya showed the Saudi-led military coalition preparing for the operation with fighter jets, armoured vehicles and missile launchers. The channel carried interviews with Yemenis thanking Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the coalition for their support.
In the UAE, Al-Ittihad newspaper described Operation Golden Victory as the “Hour of Truth” in its lead editorial. It claimed the Houthis had “hijacked” Hodeidah and “turned it and its people into hostages.”
The editorial added that the operation’s goal was to save Yemen from those who want to “turn it into an agent country rather than an independent sovereign one,” a clear reference to Iran.
“This deadlock must end,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said in a statement. “Depriving the Houthis of their control of Hodeidah port, at the Yemeni government’s request, answers the call of the people of Hodeidah for freedom from the Houthi rule. It means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun.”
Hodeidah is believed to be the Houthi militia’s main source of weapons smuggled from Iran. Those weapons include missiles that have been fired into Saudi Arabia. Rebels have also threatened to launch missile attacks at the UAE.
The United Nations and several Western countries, including the United States, have said they are aware of Iran’s support for the Houthis through arms supplies.
Though not involved in the current operation, the United States is said to be supplying the coalition with intelligence and warplane fuel.
The Hodeidah offensive had been delayed over humanitarian concerns. The Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition have called for the port to be put under the control of international monitors.
UN Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in Sana’a on June 16 to propose that the militia cede control of Hodeidah to a UN-supervised committee to stop the fighting.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government returned to Aden, its temporary capital. Hadi and Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr arrived in the city on June 14. Hadi performed Eid prayers and visited Saudi and UAE bases.