Ye­men forces seize hos­pi­tal in Hodeida

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE -

hodeida — Ye­meni govern­ment forces pressed fur­ther into the strate­gic port city of Hodeida, seiz­ing its main hos­pi­tal in heavy fight­ing on Satur­day, as their Saudi-led coali­tion and Wash­ing­ton agreed to end US re­fu­elling sup­port.

A loy­al­ist of­fi­cial said mor­tar rounds were “fall­ing like rain” in the streets as troops weath­ered rebel-laid mines and snipers to take con­trol of the main hos­pi­tal in the city of some 600,000 peo­ple.

The rebels have put up fierce re­sis­tance to the loy­al­ist ad­vance towards the city’s vi­tal docks, which are the point of en­try for 80 per cent of Ye­men’s com­mer­cial im­ports and nearly all UN su­per­vised hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. Ye­meni of­fi­cials said on Satur­day that pro-govern­ment forces had cap­tured the May 22 Hos­pi­tal.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional had ac­cused the Houthis of “de­lib­er­ate mil­i­tari­sa­tion” of the fa­cil­ity after they posted snipers on its roof. —

Re­cently the King­dom and the coali­tion have in­creased its ca­pa­bil­ity to in­de­pen­dently con­duct in­flight re­fu­elling in Ye­men

Saudi Press Agency

dubai — A re­fu­elling ar­range­ment be­tween the United States and the Saudi-led coali­tion was ended on Satur­day.

The move came as war­planes pounded the key strate­gic port city of Hodeida.

Pen­tagon chief Jim Mat­tis said he sup­ported Saudi Ara­bia’s “de­ci­sion” after the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency said the coali­tion asked for the “ces­sa­tion of in­flight re­fu­elling sup­port” from the United States.

“Re­cently the King­dom and the coali­tion has in­creased its ca­pa­bil­ity to in­de­pen­dently con­duct in­flight re­fu­elling in Ye­men,” the SPA said.

“As a re­sult, in con­sul­ta­tion with the United States, the coali­tion has re­quested ces­sa­tion of in­flight re­fu­el­ing sup­port for its op­er­a­tions in Ye­men.” Mat­tis said: “We sup­port the de­ci­sion by the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia.” The Pen­tagon had provided re­fu­el­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties for about 20 per cent of coali­tion planes fly­ing sor­ties over Ye­men.

The Houthi rebels on Fri­day launched bar­rages of mor­tar fire as they bat­tled to slow an ad­vance by pro-govern­ment forces deeper into the port city of Hodeida, mil­i­tary sources said.

Their chief has vowed his troops would never sur­ren­der de­spite be­ing vastly out­num­bered, shelled govern­ment po­si­tions in the south of the Red Sea city, loy­al­ist of­fi­cials said. But de­spite the “in­tense at­tacks”, loy­al­ist forces made fresh ad­vances in east­ern sec­tors of Hodeida.

Over one week into the re­newed of­fen­sive, civil­ians re­ported re­lent­less air strikes, low-fly­ing jets and Apache he­li­copters, mor­tars and mis­siles on the out­skirts of the city and within five kilo­me­tres of its strate­gic port, the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil said in a state­ment.

The Iran-backed rebels said their fight­ers had cut off govern­ment sup­ply routes in four sec­tors of Hodeida province, al­though there was no con­fir­ma­tion from the loy­al­ist

side. On Fri­day med­i­cal sources said that 110 Houthi rebels and 22 pro-govern­ment forces had been killed in 24 hours of vi­o­lence, bring­ing to at least 382 the num­ber of com­bat­ants killed since the bat­tle for Hodeida in­ten­si­fied on Novem­ber 1.

Backed by Saudi air raids, loy­al­ist troops for the first time en­tered res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods on Thurs­day, us­ing bull­doz­ers to re­move con­crete road blocks in­stalled by the rebels. —

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