CAIRO: Yemeni pro-government forces are planning an all-out assault on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a lifeline for aid to the war-ravaged country, a military commander said Wednesday.
The plan comes amid heavy efforts by the pro-government forces to seize rebel-held areas along Yemen’s western coast.
Troops are now 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Hodeida, a city in the hands of Yemen’s rebels known as Houthis, but need time to prepare for a “swift takeover with minimal casualties,” Ahmed Al-Kawkabani, who leads a force known as Tohama Brigade, told The Associated Press.
“As long as the sons of Hodeida are fighting, they will enter the city no matter what,” he said. The coalition plans to ensure that the port keeps running without interruption, Al-Kawkabani said.
Yemen’s government forces, backed by coalition airstrikes, have made advances along the western coast in recent weeks. They seized dozens of rebel-held villages and towns around Hodeida.
Hodeida’s port is a vital lifeline from which most of the Yemeni population’s food and medicine comes. The United Nations said it is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Hodeida.
“Obviously increased fighting would unleash even more internally displaced people,” UN spokesman Stephane Sujarric said Tuesday.
In March, an international rights group said fighting along Yemen’s west coast has displaced 100,000 people in recent months, mostly from Hodeida. Amnesty International warned that the “the worst could be yet to come.”
The three-year conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million. It has also damaged Yemen’s infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed it to the brink of famine.
The UN considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance. Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.