Yemeni government troops Image Credit: File

Cairo: Yemeni government forces, supported by an Arab coalition, yesterday inched closer to the country’s main port in Hodeida as part of a major campaign to liberate the western city from Iran-allied Al Houthi extremists, military sources said.

The Yemeni army said that government loyalists are coming closer to the Hodeida port through which most of the country’s humanitarian aid and imports enter.

Dozens of Al Houthi militiamen surrendered to the advancing forces and laid down their arms, Dubai-based television Al Arabiya reported.

The government and Arab coalition accuse Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the Hodeida port to obtain weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.

On Thursday, the Yemeni army, backed by the Saudi-led alliance’s air power, started a key operation aimed at expelling Al Houthis from the Red Sea city of Hodeida, which has been under the militants’ control since late 2014.

Northern exit open

The government forces said they are encircling Hodeida from the southern, western and eastern directions, leaving the northern exit for Al Houthis to flee.

The pro-government forces, Al Amalika (Giants) meanwhile reported yesterday that they are besieging Al Houthi snipers perching on rooftops in the eastern district of Al Saleh.

A militant arms depot exploded near Hodeida, Al Arabiya reported without further details. The latest escalation comes amid mounting international calls for Yemen’s warring sides to observe a ceasefire and relaunch peace talks to end the conflict of more than three years.

Al Houthis have plunged Yemen into devastating unrest since late 2014 when they deposed the internationally recognised government and overran parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a and Hodeida.

Yemen to boost tax collection

Yemen’s government ordered tighter tax collection at ports under its control yesterday as it began preparing its 2019 budget.

The government had approved just one formal budget since rebels overran the capital Sana’a in 2014, seizing most of the rest of the country and forcing President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.

After a meeting in its interim headquarters in second city Aden late on Monday, the government announced the formation of a committee to draw up a 2019 budget.

This year’s budget, approved in January, projected a deficit of $1.3 billion.