UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – The military alliance in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, announced on Monday a new advance of pro-government forces towards Hodeidah, adding that the troops were finishing their preparations before heading to “liberate” the port city.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki told a news conference in Riyadh that the coalition-backed forces were nine kilometers (nine miles) from the southern town of Hodeidah, which is controlled by the rebels.
Maliki said on May 29 that pro-government forces had reached an area 20 kilometers from the city of Hodeidah.
Yemeni medical sources said about 100 fighters from both sides died in fierce battles near the city of Hodeidah near the approach of the coalition-backed forces, after the rebels launched counter-attacks in this region.
On Monday evening, Maliki said progress had not slowed in recent days, but pro-government forces were “beefing up reinforcements … removing mines … in preparation for subsequent operations.”
There are also considerations related to “preserving the lives of civilians,” he said, adding that “when all the criteria are met, the forces will advance to liberate Hodeidah.”
Yemen has been embroiled in a dispute between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels for years. Saudi Arabia stepped in at the head of a military alliance in 2015 to stop the advance of rebels who took control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014.
The rebel-held port of Hodeidah is the main gateway to aid to areas under the Houthis authority in the impoverished country. The alliance sees this port as a launching pad for military operations by the Houthis on ships in the Red Sea.
The United Arab Emirates, the main partner in the coalition leadership, collected at the beginning of 2018 three forces of heterogeneous within a single force under the name of “Yemeni resistance” in order to launch the operation on the west coast in Yemen towards the city of Hodeidah.
The United Nations warns that any operation aimed at controlling Hodeidah could disrupt the entry of aid shipments, 70 percent of which pass through the port.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s new envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith, is on a visit to Sanaa.
“All options are open … and the political solution is the best for the Yemeni crisis,” Maliki said on Monday. “The military option continues to achieve the goals.”
He called on Yemeni tribes in the province of Hodeidah to communicate with the coalition and stand “alongside the children of Yemen.”