- Government forces fighting Yemen’s Houthi militia are sending reinforcements toward the port of Hodeida.
- The pro-government Yemeni forces are a mix of local fighters loyal to President Hadi, and forces loyal to the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed last December by his former Houthi allies.
KHOKHA: Government forces fighting Yemen’s Houthi militia are sending reinforcements toward the port of Hodeida, military sources said Tuesday, amid UN warnings against a high-stakes battle for the key aid gateway.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said his envoy Martin Griffiths has been locked in “intense negotiations” with the Iran-backed Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to find a “way to avoid the military confrontation in Hodeida.”
During a meeting with Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany, Guterres stressed that “everyone should redouble efforts to find a political solution and avoid a fierce, bloody battle for Hodeida,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The city is home to 600,000 people and is the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen’s imports, including vital aid supplies for civilians in the conflict-wracked country.
Yemeni military sources said the UAE-backed pro-government forces were dispatching reinforcements toward the Red Sea port.
Anti-Houthi forces made use of a break in fighting from Monday to send troops and equipment toward the front line, currently around 40 kilometers south of Hodeida, the sources said.
The pro-government Yemeni forces are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed in December by his former Houthi allies.
They are backed on the ground by the UAE, while Saudi Arabia has been leading a campaign of air strikes.
The Yemeni president was in Abu Dhabi Tuesda for talks in the UAE ahead of the final attack on Hodeidah.
The government forces are determined to drive the Houthis from Hodeida, analysts say, having failed to score any major military victories since taking five southern provinces and the city of Aden in 2015.
In a sign of growing international concern over Hodeida, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Monday after Britain told aid agencies on the ground it had received a warning from the UAE of an attack.
The United Nations pulled all of its international staff out of Hodeida early Monday morning.
UN envoy Griffiths briefed the Security Council by video conference from Amman, and according to diplomats has revived a year-old plan to turn over Hodeida port to a neutral party.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he urged Emirati leaders to work with the UN, making clear Washington’s aims “to address their security concerns while preserving the free flow of humanitarian aid” and imports.
But Pompeo fell short of warning the coalition against launching an all-out offensive and the Houthis consider any assault on Hodeida would come with Washington’s authorization.