Yemen government forces advance on strategic town of Hodeida

Hodeida has been a point of contention in Yemen’s war since Saudi Arabia and its allies started a bombing campaign.

Yemeni government forces are only around 20 kilometres from Hodeida as they advance on the key rebel-held port city, the Saudi-led military coalition said on Monday.

The Red Sea port has been a point of contention in Yemen’s war since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened on behalf of the government in 2015 against Houthi rebels.

“The Yemeni army backed by the coalition is at a distance of around 20 kilometres from Hodeida,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh.

“The purpose is to return the city back to the legitimate government of Yemen. Our operations are ongoing,” he added.

Hodeida is the main conduit for humanitarian aid on which millions depend, as Yemen teeters on the brink of famine.

There has been fierce fighting in the city recently. Last month, one of the Houthis’ top officials was killed in an air strike by Saudi Arabia.

Saleh al-Samad was the head of the group’s supreme political council and the most senior Houthi official to be killed in Yemen’s civil war.

But for neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Hodeida is seen as the entry point for rebel weaponry, which it accuses regional rival Tehran of supplying.

“Our goal is to cut the vein that the Houthis are benefiting from” in their war effort, Maliki said.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels about Maliki’s claim.

The United Arab Emirates – a key member of the Saudi-led alliance – has taken the initiative to ramp up the coastal offensive, with the stated goal of retaking Hodeida.

In November 2017, the coalition announced a total blockade on Hodeida in response to a rebel ballistic missile attack that targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

That embargo was eased under international pressure, but the coalition has meanwhile set its sights on retaking Hodeida by land – especially as rebel missile attacks have increased.

The United Nations has warned that any operation aimed at seizing Hodeida itself would disrupt the entry of aid shipments to Yemen, 70 percent of which flow through the rebel-held port.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance launched a deadly campaign in Yemen in March 2015, contributing to what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

US warns Saudi, UAE forces against offensive on strategic Yemeni port city

One week after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia sought the U.S.’ military support to capture the strategic Yemeni port-city of Hodeideh, the latter has issued a warning to the two Gulf states about carrying out such an offensive.

“In terms of an operation on Hodeidah, we’ve been quite clear that we want to engage on the political track,” a Western official said on condition of anonymity, adding that U.N. envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths “now has the best chance of anyone in quite some time of getting it moving.”

“This is a point that we’ve made at the top level,” the official added. “The Saudis and Emiratis have made clear that they would not move without a joint understanding from their friends and partners of what the next steps are – what the day after will be – if there were an assault on Hodeidah.”

However, despite the ‘understanding,’ the UAE and Saudi-backed forces have continued their offensive to capture Hodeideh from the Houthi forces.

“The United States has been clear and consistent that we will not support actions that destroy key infrastructure or that are likely to exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation that has expanded in this stalemated conflict,” said the spokesperson to Reuters, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and asked not to be named.

“We expect all parties to abide by the Law of Armed Conflict and avoid targeting civilians or commercial infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

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