Saudi-led alliance bent on liberating rest of Hodeida after recent setbacks to militia
Cairo: The Saudi-led Arab coalition, fighting Iran-allied Al Houthis in Yemen, has urged people of the western city of Hodeida against backing Al Houthis, saying they are fighting a losing battle.
Last month, the pro-government forces, supported by the Arab Coalition, unleashed a major offensive to expel Al Houthis from the Red Sea city and its crucial port. The battle for Hodeida has been temporarily halted in support of UN peace efforts that have yet to make a breakthrough.
“The coalition forces are determined to liberate what remains of the Western Coast and the city of Hodeida,” the alliance said in a statement to the locals, according to pro-government news portal Aden Al Ghad.
“The liberated areas enjoy security and stability as well as development projects. We call on you not to support those militias.”
Since the coalition started its onslaught for Hodeida on June 13, Al Houthis have suffered military and territorial setbacks, prompting the extremists to use civilians there as human shields and increasingly militarising the city.
“Realities show that Al Houthis have lost most areas and hundreds of them have been killed,” the coalition said. “Al Houthi militias, supported by Iran, do not care about who is killed among you and your children. They are sending you to a losing battle and using you as human shields.”
Hodeida is strategically important because of its harbour, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as most of the commercial imports and relief supplies enter through it to the country.
The Arab Coalition accuses Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the harbour to obtain weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.
35,000 families displaced
The battle for Hodeida, controlled by Al Houthis since late 2014, is the biggest in Yemen’s war. Nearly 35,000 families have left the embattled city of about 600,000 people due to the fighting, the UN said on Tuesday.
In recent weeks, the coalition has pursued a multi-front campaign in Yemen, including Sa’ada, Al Houthis’ far northern stronghold near the Saudi border.
The Iran-aligned extremists have used Sa’ada as a launch pad for firing ballistic missiles across the border into the Saudi territory.
Al Houthis have fired 161 ballistic missiles towards Saudi Arabia over the past three years, according to the coalition’s spokesman, Turki Al Malaki. The figure included three missiles launched from Sa’ada this month.
Al Malaki said in a weekly briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh that 703 Al Houthi fighters were killed in a week between July 9 and July 16.
In September 2014, Al Houthis overran the Yemeni capital Sana’a in a coup against the internationally recognised government.
In March 2015, the Arab Coalition initiated a campaign in Yemen against Al Houthis after the militants advanced on the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.