ADEN (AFP) – Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have seized two major rebel supply routes into the key port city of Hodeida, military sources said yesterday.
Abdulrahman Saleh Abou Zaraa, head of the brigade fighting Yemen’s Huthi rebels in Hodeida province, told AFP his forces had taken the insurgents’ main supply route linking the port city to the capital Sanaa, known as Kilo 16.
Nearly three quarters of crucial imports to impoverished Yemen pass through Hodeida, including humanitarian aid.
The forces also seized a second supply route around Hodeida, known as Kilo 10, earlier yesterday, military sources said.
Hodeida, a city on Yemen’s Red Sea coastline, is held by the country’s Iran-backed rebels in their war against the government and its allies, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The rebels also control Sanaa.
The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Huthis of smuggling arms through Hodeida, imposing a partial blockade on the port.
A military source in the brigade fighting in Hodeida said yesterday’s operation aimed to cut off supplies to the rebels. The government coalition did not have immediate plans to try to take the city, the source said.
Fierce clashes broke out yesterday between the Huthis and pro-government forces on the east and south of rebel-held Hodeida, leaving dozens of fighters dead, according to military and medical sources.
In June, Yemen’s pro-government forces, led on the ground by the United Arab Emirates, launched a major operation to retake both the city and port of Hodeida.
In July, the coalition announced a temporary ceasefire in Hodeida to give a chance to UN-brokered peace talks.
But UN attempts to hold peace talks between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Huthis, were abandoned on Saturday after the rebels refused to leave Yemen for Geneva.
The Huthis accused the UN of failing to meet their conditions – including a plane to transport their wounded to nearby Oman and a guarantee their delegation would be allowed to return to Sanaa.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015.
Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine.