Riyadh – Yemeni government forces are closing in on the rebel held port city of Hodeida, the war-ravaged country’s main conduit for humanitarian aid, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday.
“The Yemeni army backed by the coalition is around 20 Km outside Hodeida and military operations are ongoing,” coalition spokesman Turki Maliki told reporters in Riyadh.
The Red Sea port has been a key point of contention in Yemen’s war since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened on behalf of the government in 2015 against Iran-allied Al Houthi rebels.
Hodeida is Yemen’s largest entry point for aid on which millions depend, 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.
Maliki’s announcements came after rebel chief Abdul Malik Al Houthi said in a defiant televised address Sunday that the Houthis were ready to thwart any military operation by the coalition on 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.