Ye­men troops ad­vance deeper into Hodeida

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

HODEIDA, Ye­men: Ye­meni pro­gov­ern­ment forces backed by Arab coali­tion war­planes ad­vanced in­side rebel-held Hodeida Thurs­day, leav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of civil­ians brac­ing for fight­ing in the streets of the Red Sea port city.

Af­ter a week of in­tense bat­tles with the Iran-backed Houthi in­sur­gents on the out­skirts of Hodeida, loy­al­ist troops reached res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods, us­ing bull­doz­ers to re­move con­crete road­blocks in­stalled by the rebels.

Flash­ing vic­tory signs, troops of the United Arab Emi­rates-trained Gi­ants Brigade armed with au­to­matic weapons and rocket-pro­pelled grenades rolled down the city’s streets in pickup trucks bear­ing their brigade logo spray-painted in red, a jour­nal­ist work­ing for AFP re­ported.

Three mil­i­tary sources said that govern­ment forces and their coali­tion al­lies were edg­ing to­wards the city’s vi­tal port through which nearly 80 per­cent of Ye­men’s com­mer­cial im­ports and prac­ti­cally all U.N.-su­per­vised hu­man­i­tar­ian aid pass.

Columns headed for the docks ad­vanced 2 kilo­me­ters along the main road from the in­te­rior to the east and 3 kilo­me­ters along the coast road from the south, the sources said.

“Ei­ther the rebels sur­ren­der the city peace­fully or we take it by force, but we will take it ei­ther way,” Cmdr. Moam­mar al-Saidy said.

Coali­tion planes bombed rebel po­si­tions as ground forces ad­vanced.

At least 47 Houthi fight­ers were killed, hospi­tal sources in rebel-held ar­eas told AFP.

Medics at hos­pi­tals in govern­ment-held ter­ri­tory said 11 sol­diers were killed. The deaths bring the over­all toll from seven days of fight­ing to 250 com­bat­ants killed – 197 rebels and 53 loy­al­ists.

Aid group Save the Chil­dren con­firmed the death of one civil­ian, a 15year-old boy who died of shrap­nel wounds sus­tained just out­side the city.

The Houthis have con­trolled Hodeida since 2014 when they over­ran the cap­i­tal Sanaa and then swept though much of the rest of the coun­try, trig­ger­ing an Arab mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion the fol­low­ing year and a dev­as­tat­ing war of at­tri­tion. The rebels have since been driven out of vir­tu­ally all of the south and much of the Red Sea coast.

Govern­ment forces launched their of­fen­sive to re­take Hodeida in June backed by sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Emi­rati ground troops.

Their ad­vance into the city of some 600,000 peo­ple has been slowed by trenches and mine­fields dug by the rebels around their last ma­jor coastal strong­hold, an army source said.

Pro-govern­ment forces told AFP Thurs­day that mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions were on­go­ing with fierce clashes rock­ing the city af­ter dark.

“We will clean the streets of the city … of Houthi mili­tias and we will con­tinue to ad­vance be­yond Hodeida,” fighter Fadel Ab­bas said.

But rebel chief Ab­dul-Ma­lik al-Houthi vowed late Wed­nes­day that his fight­ers would never sur­ren­der de­spite be­ing se­ri­ously out­num­bered. “This is not hap­pen­ing and will not hap­pen ever,” he said. And the rebels said Thurs­day evening that they had “cut the sup­ply routes” for pro-govern­ment forces in four parts of Hodeida prov­ince out­side the city.

The rebel-con­trolled Saba news agency said Houthi forces were us­ing loud­speak­ers to call on loy­al­ist fight­ers to sur­ren­der. North Hodeida is still un­der to­tal rebel con­trol. While some shops had shut­tered their win­dows, a veg­etable mar­ket was bustling as armed men could be seen pa­trolling the area. Pedes­tri­ans and cars poured into Jizan Road, a main street in the city’s north.

Aid groups have ap­pealed to both the rebels and the coali­tion to pro­vide safe pas­sage for flee­ing civil­ians and halt fight­ing around hos­pi­tals.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional ac­cused the rebels of “de­lib­er­ate mil­i­ta­riza­tion” of one of Hodeida’s main hos­pi­tals, say­ing they had placed snipers on the roof of the fa­cil­ity in the May 22 dis­trict.

At an­other of the city’s ma­jor hos­pi­tals, Al-Thawra, just me­ters from the front line, a 10-year-old boy died of mal­nu­tri­tion, the U.N. chil­dren’s agency UNICEF re­ported.

“We’re run­ning out of words to de­scribe how wretched the sit­u­a­tion is,” Fabrizio Car­boni, In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross Mid­dle East di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment. –

Ye­meni pro-govern­ment forces gather on a high­way as they ad­vance to­wards cen­tral Hodeida.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.