Yemen forces launch assault on Houthi-held port city

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Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in Al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen, in this June 1, 2018 file photo. — Reuters

Al Jah Yemen — Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched a major offensive on Wednesday to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeida.

Troops pushed toward Hodeida airport after Yemeni pro-government forces received a “green light” from the coalition forces.

The port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen’s imports which Houthis use it to secure Iranian arms, notably the ballistic missiles.

Coalition sources said the alliance carried out 18 air strikes on Houthi positions on the outskirts of Hodeida on Wednesday.

The port city, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the Iran-backed insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and a bloc of other Arab countries intervened in Yemen the following year with the goal of restoring the government to power.

Yemen’s government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

“All peaceful and political means of removing the Houthi militia from Hodeida port have been exhausted,” the government said in a statement carried by Yemen’s state news agency Saba.

“The current & illegal Houthi occupation of Hodeida is prolonging the Yemeni war. The liberation of the city & port will create a new reality & bring the Houthis to the negotiations,” Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Tuesday.

Yemeni forces massing around Hodeida are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

They are backed on the ground by the UAE, while Saudi Arabia has been leading a campaign of air strikes.

Analysts say anti-rebel forces are determined to drive the Houthis from the key port.


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