A displaced girl from Hodeida looks out of her family shelter in a Sana’a camp. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Yemen’s pro-government forces have sent military reinforcements in preparation for a looming battle for liberating the vital western city of Hodeida from Iran-aligned Al Houthis, Yemeni media reported Thursday.

Last month, the Yemeni forces, supported by a Saudi-led Arab coalition including the United Arab Emirates, unleashed a major offensive to expel Al Houthis from the Red Sea city and its crucial port.

The battle for Hodeida has been temporarily halted in support of UN peace efforts that have yet to make a breakthrough.

The Giants Brigades, a southern resistance force, have dispatched massive reinforcements to support fighters on the Western Coast front, the pro-government news portal Aden Al Ghad reported.

The build-up, backed by UAE forces, comes as the Giants Brigades are approaching Hodeida, the report added.

Since the coalition started its onslaught for Hodeida on June 13, Al Houthis have suffered military and territorial setbacks.

The militants have turned to desperate tactics using civilians there as human shields and increasingly militarising the city.

Hodeida is strategically important because of its harbour, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as most of the commercial imports and relief supplies enter through it to the country.

The Arab Coalition accuses Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the harbour to smuggle in weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.

The battle for Hodeida, controlled by Al Houthis since late 2014, is the biggest in Yemen’s war.

In recent weeks, Al Houthis have intensified firing missiles towards neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Saudi air defences Thursday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired by the Iran-allied militants in the direction of the Saudi region of Jizan, Al Arabiya television reported.

On Wednesday, the coalition announced interception a ballistic missile launched by Al Houthis towards the Saudi region of Najran.

No casualties were reported in both incidents.

The Arab Coalition is supporting the internationally-recognised administration of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in fighting Al Houthis, who overran the capital Sana’a and other territory in Yemen in a 2014 coup.

Hadi, meanwhile, paid tribute to army commander Brigadier General Mohammad Saleh Al Ahmar who died in a military drill in the province of Marib, north east of Sana’a, the official news agency Saba reported.

Al Ahmar, Yemen’s military attaché in Bahrain, was the son-in-law of Vice President Ali Mohsen Saleh Al Ahmar.

Saba said that Hadi had offered condolences to his deputy on the death of Al Ahmar.

“The Yemeni people’s sacrifices will be crowned with fulfilling their national project of setting up a federal civil state and eliminating the Persian [Iranian] project being implemented by Al Houthi coup militia,” Hadi said, according to Saba.