UAE-backed forces enter Yemen's Hodeida, as rebels vow to 'fight to the end'

UAE-backed forces enter Yemen's Hodeida, as rebels vow to 'fight to the end'
Pro-government reinforcements have entered Yemen's Hodeida ahead of a major offensive planned to retake the port city from the Houthi rebels.
2 min read
21 June, 2018
Yemen's Houthi rebels have vowed to fight on [Getty]

UAE-backed forces entered Yemen's port city of Hodeida on Thursday, as the army set their sights on the rebel-held city who have vowed to fight to the end.

Reinforcements were sent to the area ahead of a major offensive near the Red Sea port, military sources said.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a military source said, "our preparations are in their final stages for the advance on the port".

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels vowed on Wednesday to win back Hodeida Airport, after pro-government forces seized the site in a major step towards retaking the port city following a week-long battle.

Rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi called yesterday for reinforcements to repel the advance of the UAE-backed government forces, after ongoing fighting left nearly 350 people dead.

Pro-government forces announced the capture of Hodeida Airport on Wednesday morning, a day after breaking through the perimeter fence.

The airport was disused but it housed a major rebel base just inland from the coastal road into the city from the south.

Fresh clashes later erupted between UAE-backed government forces and the Iran-allied rebels on a road linking the airport to Hodeida port on the Red Sea coast, a Yemeni army source said.

The UAE and other members of a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in support of the government in 2015 have accused regional arch-foe Iran of using Hodeida as the major conduit for arms smuggling to the rebels. Tehran has denied the allegation.

Hodeida's residents are 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.

Some 5,200 families fled their homes this month as pro-government forces advanced up the Red Sea coast, according to the UN.

The Hodeida offensive - dubbed Operation Golden Victory - is the most intense battlefront in the already-brutal Yemen war which has left millions displaced.

The 2015 Saudi-led intervention came after President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels overran much of the country.

The conflict has since killed nearly 10,000 people, most of them civilians, while more than 2,200 others have died from cholera.

The coalition has helped pro-government forces regain control of the south and much of the Red Sea coast, but the rebels still control Sanaa and most of the north.

Multiple rounds of UN-brokered peace talks have all failed to achieve any breakthrough.