Government forces, known as the Giants’ Battalions, move into Hodeida.
Cairo: Fifty three Al Houthi militiamen have been killed and dozens more injured in battles and air strikes in Hodeida, medics said Sunday, as pro-government forces advanced in the insurgent-held Red Sea port city. Yemeni government forces, supported by an Arab coalition, were Sunday engaged in pitched battles against Iran-aligned Al Houthi militants.
The port is strategically important because most of Yemen’s aid and imports enter through it.
Current fight is raging just 3km from the harbour, Al Arabiya quoted sources as saying. According to a pro-government military source, clashes intensified in Hodeida city and centred around its university on Saturday and Sunday morning.
On Thursday, the Yemeni army, backed by the Saudi-led alliance’s air power, started a major operation aimed at expelling Al Houthis from Hodeida.
Thirteen pro-government troops were killed, medical sources in Aden and Mokha – where the fighters were transported – told AFP.
The government forces have since reported advances in pushing into the western city.
A pro-government force, calling itself “The Giants’ Battalions” said Sunday they had seized a main road near the strategic Kilo 16, which is considered the main gateway to Hodeida.
They added that they were fighting hard against Al Houthis at the southern approach to the city and were able to retake the engineering school building, part of the Hodeida University compound located on the south-western parts of the city.
Brigadier Abdul Rahman Saleh, in charge of the Hodeida campaign, said government forces Sunday moved beyond the Kilo 16 area in the direction of the eastern district of Al Saleh.
Al Houthis militia is in a state of collapse due to “the successive defeats” it suffered at the hands of the army and resistance fighters, Saleh added, according to Yemen’s official news agency Saba.
The government and Arab coalition accuse Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the Hodeida port to obtain weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.
Al Houthis have plunged Yemen into devastating unrest since late 2014 when they deposed the internationally recognised government and overran parts of the country including the capital Sana’a and Hodeida.
In 2015, the Arab coalition, led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, intervened in the country in response to a request from its government.
Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has vowed that the ongoing military campaign in the country until Sana’s is liberated from the extremists.
“The flag of the coup plotters will fall and the flag of the Yemeni Republic will be hoisted at the Maran mountains,” Hadi added, referring to a militant stronghold in the northern province of Saada where government forces have also reported progress.
“Victory is imminent,” Saba quoted Hadi as saying.
The latest escalation in fight comes amid international calls for warring sides in Yemen to end the war. The government has said it is ready to consider confidence-building measures, while the rebels remain unrelenting.