21 June 2018Hot off the Press
Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition have gained control and seized Hodeida airport from Iranian-allied Houthi rebels on Wednesday, marking a major step towards the government retaking the key Red Sea port city.
“The airport was completely cleared, thank God, and is under control,” the coalition commander for the Red Sea coast, Abdul Salaam Shehi, said in a video posted by WAM.
Government forces broke through the airport perimeter fence on Tuesday, which sparked heavy fighting in which at least 33 rebels and 19 soldiers were killed.
The forceful attempt to regain Hodeida took a dramatic turn last week, when coalition soldiers launched an offensive to clear the area of Houthi rebels who have held it since 2014, which sparked concerns within the United Nations (UN) about vital aid shipments and food imports that travel through the city’s docks.
The airport, while disused, housed a major base for Houthi rebels. It lies eight kilometres from the city’s main port, through which three-quarters of Yemeni’s imports pass, providing a lifeline for the 22 million people who are dependent on aid.
The fighting has forced dozens of families to evacuate the area and head for the countryside that lay 16 kilometres from the city’s port, which is already crowded with people, especially women and children.