Dubai – A coalition led by Saudi Arabia backing the exiled government of Yemen on Wednesday launched an assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeida.
This battle is crucial in the three-year-long war and aid agencies warned that it could plunge the poorest country in the Arab world into deeper chaos.
Shiite rebels, known as Houthis who are aligned with Iran, and their allies have controlled the port in the Red Sea for years, vital for the entry of food to a nation on the brink of famine after years of war.
The battle for Hodeida, if the Houthis do not withdraw, would be the first major urban melee battle for the Saudi coalition, which can be lethal for both combatants and civilians.
Before dawn on Wednesday, caravans of vehicles seemed to be heading towards the rebellious city, according to videos posted on social networks. The sound of intense and continuous shots could be heard clearly in the background.
Satellite TV sets of the Saudi capital, and later state media, announced the beginning of the battle by citing military sources. They also reported coalition airstrikes and bombing from ships.
The government of Yemen in exile “has exhausted all peaceful and political ways to withdraw the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida,” he said in a statement. “The liberation of the Hodeida port is a milestone in our battle to recover Yemen from the militias.”
The Al Masirah satellite network, managed by the Houthis, later acknowledged the offensive, noting that rebel forces reached a Saudi coalition ship near Hodeida with two land-sea missiles. The combatants had already used this projectile time against boats before.
“The attacked vessel moved troops ready to disembark on the coast of Hodeida,” the television station said.
The Saudi coalition did not immediately confirm the incident. The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy, deployed in an area that includes the Red Sea, derived the questions regarding the offensive to the Pentagon, which did not respond to requests for comments immediately. It was not clear at the moment what kind of concrete support Washington offered to the operation on Wednesday.
Forces loyal to the exiled executive and militiamen led by Emirati soldiers approached Hodeida in recent days. The port is about 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, which has been taken by the Houthis since September 2014. The coalition delirious for Riyadh entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the United States.
Source: Diario MX