An armed personnel carrier belonging to the Yemeni government troops head to the frontline in Hodeida. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: With land, sea and air support by the UAE Armed Forces, the Arab Coalition and Yemeni Resistance forces began on Wednesday a decisive military operation to liberate Hodeidah city and its strategic port from the grip of the Iranian-backed Al Houthi militias, who rejected peaceful solutions.

The forces managed to liberate new strategic areas in Al Duraihimi district and areas adjacent to Hodeidah airport after penetrating the Al Houthi front lines. Following the collapse of their defences, the Al Houthi fighters abandoned their positions, while their commanders fled the areas after the defeat.

Colonel Sadiq Al Duwaid, spokesman for the Yemeni National Resistance, said the joint resistance forces made a huge advance towards Al Hodeidah, closing to 8 kilometres within the city’s airport and controlling the districts of Al Nekhailah and Al Taif, south of Hodeidah, amid major collapse in the Houthi militias ranks. The Arab Coalition’s fighter jets pounded the Houthis reinforcements, while the resistance forces killed and captured dozens of Houthi fighters.

“The Yemeni resistance forces foiled attempts by the Houthis to infiltrate Al Madman area in Tahtia towards Al Faza in what appears to be a desperate move to raise morale of their defeated fighters,” he added.

The assault marks the first time the Arab states have tried to capture such a heavily-defended major Red Sea port city since they joined the war three years ago against the militants, who control the capital Sana’a and most of the populated areas.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash tweeted, “Hodeida is on the verge of liberation. The first media voice of Al Houthis, Al Jazeera channel, is adopting an opportunistic stance expressing discontent. That is how [the channel] was and this is how it will remain.”


Al Houthis repeatedly rejected peace proposals

The operation comes after Al Houthis consistently rejected peace proposals, in the past and under the current UN Envoy Martin Griffiths, to head off the onslaught by ceding to the port’s control over to a neutral party.

Shortly after the launch of the operation codenamed the “Golden Victory”, Yemeni forces retook the suburb of Nekhailah from Al Houthis amid collapses in their ranks, the Yemeni army said.

Coalition air strikes and warships pounded Al Houthi positions in the city, home to the Hodeida port that receives most humanitarian aid and trade to Yemen.

In Abu Dhabi, Reem Ebrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation, has said the Arab coalition has prepared a large-scale and comprehensive plan for the rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to the governorate of Hodeida, and surrounding areas.

The minister said food and essential supplies have been stocked and prepared for immediate delivery.

“We have ships, planes, and trucks with food supplies and medicine to address the immediate needs of the people,” she said.

Al Hashemi added: “Hodeida port remains open to shipping. Should Al Houthis attempt to further damage and destroy any port or logistics infrastructure, we have also put contingency plans in place to move aid by other methods to Hodeida and points beyond."

“On top of the $14 billion the coalition has already given in aid to Yemen, we continue to work with aid agencies on the ground to ensure that once the port is liberated, we will quickly increase the capacity of the port and the amount of aid flowing through it,” she added.

“The coalition successfully implemented similar large-scale operations when it liberated Aden, Mukalla and Mokha, which led to considerable improvement in people’s lives. In each area the coalition has liberated, the local people are now better off than under Al Houthi or Al Qaida control,” she added.

State employees coerced to fight

Meanwhile, a Yemeni social media entrepreneur has accused Al Houthi militants of coercing state employees into going to Hodeida ahead of a major fight over the port city.

“Al Houthis are forcing governmental employees in different intuitions to join the front lines in Hodeida,” Faizah Al Sulaimani posted on her Twitter account.

"They threaten: 'either you go now [to Hodeida] or you will be arrested immediately and then get killed as a traitor'.”

Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committee, supporting forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, guard a position against Al Houthis.  AFP

The post came as Yemeni forces, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, launched their long-anticipated assault on the strategic Red Sea port city early on Wednesday.

“What a barbaric action!!! Sending hundreds of thousands of civilians to die!!!” Faizah, a senior relations and communication officer at Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service (SMEPS), said.

The development specialist posted a list of names of state employees who had been ordered on June 11 to go to Hodeida.

File photo shows UAE-backed Yemeni forces celebrating the liberation of Mahfad, a key Al Qaida bastion in Abyan. — Source: Facebook

“There are other lists from other departments in the interior, defence and moral guidance. Either you follow the orders or you get executed for treason!,” she posted.

The Red Sea port city of Hodeida is the fourth-largest city in Yemen.

Many concessions made to avoid a military solution

Yemen: Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of Yemen, called on the National Army and Popular Resistance, supported by the Arab Coalition, to resort to a military solution to liberate the city and port of Hodeidah, particularly since the situation in the governorate has become a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.  AP file photo

“We can no longer remain silent when it comes to Houthi practices and their stubbornness not to reach a political solution for the Yemeni crisis,” said Hadi.

According to a statement published by the official Yemeni News Agency, Hadi said: “We were, and still are, striving towards a peaceful solution that is based on three basic referrals: The Gulf initiative and its executive mechanisms, the outcomes of the national comprehensive dialogue and the resolutions on the United Nations Security Council No. 2216.”

“We made many concessions to avoid a military solution. However, we cannot allow exploiting the suffering of our people and holding them hostage to prolong this war sparked by the Houthi militia,” he added.

Smuggling weapons

The Yemeni government had previously reaffirmed through an official statement that it has exhausted all political and peaceful means to remove the Houthis from Al Hodeidah Port, pointing out that the Houthi militia exploited the port to smuggle Iranian weapons to prolong the conflict and kill more Yemeni people.

The port has also been used as a launch pad for Houthi military attacks against the Yemeni forces and Arab Coalition forces.

The port was also used to threaten commercial ships using the Bab El Mandeb strait, therefore threatening international maritime navigation.

Houthis also seized contents of ships carrying humanitarian aid, stopping them from being delivered to the Yemeni people.

The shipments and contents would then be sold in the black market or kept by the Houthis to be distributed to its fighters, which prevents the aid from being delivered to needy beneficiaries.