Yemen pro-govt forces seize Hodeida airport: coalition

Hannah Rogers
June 23, 2018

Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels.

The offensive was launched last Wednesday to clear Hodeida of Houthi fighters who have held it since 2014, raising United Nations concerns for vital aid shipments and food imports through the city's docks. Combat has been raging at the southern runway less than a mile (one kilometer) from the main airport compound.

The Houthis have as many as 3,000 fighters around Hodeida, Gargash said.

The agency said that rapid response assistance is being distributed to newly displaced people.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, said about 5,200 families or about 26,000 people have left the region to seek safety adding that "the number is expected to increase as hostilities continue".

Officials in a Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels for control of a crucial port in Yemen on Tuesday displayed weapons captured on the battlefield that they say show Iran is arming the insurgents.

In a bid to break the stalemate, the coalition attacked heavily defended Hodeidah a week ago, pledging a swift operation to minimize civilian casualties and avoid disrupting vital aid to millions of Yemenis via the Red Sea port.

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Yahia Sharaf Eddin says four of the dead are women and that the Tuesday strike took place in al-Gharasi district, just outside the city.

Earlier in the day, witnesses said another airstrike targeted a tractor driver and his assistant in eastern Hodeida. However, they said warplanes continued to bombard Houthi positions closer to the city centre, where the rebels have begun to entrench themselves in expectation of fierce street-to-street fighting.

"We are now destroying Houthi fortifications near the airport", spokesman Turki al-Malki said in an interview with Al Arabiya television from Brussels, accusing the Houthis of placing tanks inside residential areas.

The United Arab Emirates will reportedly make available eight ships, seven aircraft and another 100 local Yemeni trucks, according to the Straits Times, to issue 380,000 baskets of food comprising wheat, rice and flour.

The operation concluded with controlling the airport.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. Emirati forces are leading ground forces mixed with their own troops, irregular militiamen and soldiers backing Yemen's exiled government.

Though the coalition pledged to try to avoid battles in crowded urban neighborhoods, the Houthis were well dug into Hodeidah to protect the key supply line to the core northern territory they control, including the capital, Sanaa.

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