HODEIDAH, Yemen- Yemen's Houthis deployed additional forces, in the main port city of Hodeidah on Sunday, as a Saudi-led military coalition moved closer to the city centre, in the largest offensive of the war, raising UN fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launched its assault on the heavily defended Red Sea city on Jun 12, to try to weaken the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, by cutting off a key supply line for the group, which controls the capital Sanaa and most populated areas.
"There is a heavy deployment of armed Houthis in the city, and new check points have been set up in the neighbourhoods, where there are supporters of the Tehama brigades," said one resident, referring to a Yemeni faction from the Red Sea coastal plain, that is fighting with the coalition forces.
Fierce clashes broke out after midnight near Hodeidah University, around three km west of the city centre, on the coastal road, linking the airport to the port, added the resident, who requested anonymity. Coalition forces seized the airport on Wednesday and have been consolidating their hold in the area, as UN efforts continued to reach a political deal that would avert an assault on the port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
The United Nations fears the escalation in fighting could exacerbate what is already the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The World Food Programme said, the fighting could result in up to 1.1 million people being either displaced or trapped within the city and in need of emergency food assistance.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations. A US official said, Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
"The coalition will achieve its goal of liberating Hodeidah city & port. Yet we will support all efforts to achieve an unconditional peaceful withdrawal of Houthis," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said.
The Arab states say, they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, which have been launched at Saudi cities. The group and Tehran deny the accusations.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK