Yemen government forces enter Hodeida airport

Yemen government forces enter Hodeida airport

Intense fighting erupted Tuesday around the airport in rebel-held Hodeida in western Yemen as Saudi-backed government forces mounted a new offensive to capture the area, military sources said.

A resident said the forces stormed the airport after fierce battles broke out early in the morning between coalition forces and Iran-aligned Houthi fighters who hold the main port city of Hodeidah.

He said these operations contributed to the imposition of control on these fronts, referring to the heavy losses suffered by the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist coup militia, which made them unable to withstand, or deal with this very critical situation. "We an hear the sound of artillery and machinegun fire", said a resident who requested anonymity. Officials involved in the Saudi-led campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen known as Houthis showed journalists on Tuesday materiel captured on the battlefield that they alleged show Iran's hand in arming the rebels.

The coalition intervened in Yemen's war in 2015 after Houthi rebels drove the internationally recognised government into exile.

Weapons shown to reporters in Abu Dhabi and later at an Emirati military base on a government-sponsored tour included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a "drone boat", which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.

Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the Coalition forces to restore legitimacy in Yemen, said that the missile was launched deliberately from Saada governorate of Yemen to target densely populated civilian areas.

At least 156 Huthis and 28 soldiers were killed in the fight for the airport, according to Hodeida hospital sources.

Hodeidah port remained open on Tuesday with the UN World Food Programme racing to unload three ships containing enough food for six million people for one month, WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher told reporters in Geneva.

But after the UN's top envoy for Yemen flew out of the capital Tuesday without announcing a breakthrough in mediation, hope is dwindling for Ahmed. Sharaf Qaleb Luqman says the airport is far from the clashes that are happening 20 kilometers outside the city of Hudaydah. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that around 26,000 people have sought refuge since the battle began. Saudi Arabia has provided air support, with targeting guidance and refueling from the U.S.

The ongoing violence has devastated Yemen's infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the United Nations to describe the situation as "one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times".

The United Nations has warned that an attack on the port itself could cripple shipments of desperately needed aid to the 8.4 million Yemenis facing imminent starvation.

The Houthis seized control of Sanaa in September 2014, later pushing south toward the port city of Aden.