Saudi-Led Coalition Storms Yemen's Hodeidah Airport Compound

Al Hudaydah is currently controlled by Houthi rebels

Al Hudaydah is currently controlled by Houthi rebels

Capturing the airport would mark a crucial gain in the government's struggle against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, as approximately 80 percent of imports and aid supplies that reach Yemen enter Hodeida's port.

Mohamed Sharaf, 44, a civil servant, said he had sent his entire family to Sanaa, the inland capital, several days ago and he was getting ready to leave himself.

Troops from the UAE and neighbouring Saudi Arabia are the mainstay of an Arab coalition that has been fighting the Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government since 2015. Aid groups have expressed alarm about the operation, but so far coalition forces remain bogged down in battles south of the city, and the port has remained open.

According to al-Qutaibi, "dozens" of Houthi fighters - he did not provide an exact number - have been killed by intense army shelling in the Nahm directorate.

Hodeidah handled 70 percent of the nation's food imports before the war, and periodic Saudi blockades of the port since 2015 have heightened fears of starvation in a country where some 22 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said: "We are waiting for the Houthis to realize the sort of military and psychological blow that they got with the airport. we are giving them time to decide if they want to save the city. and pull out".

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The Emiratis, who are the major force behind the campaign to take over Hodeida, said they are taking all measures to avoid civilian casualties. "Coalition will 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".

The U.N. World Food Programme said on Tuesday it was hastening to unload three ships at the port that contain enough food for six million people for one month. But the Houthis were well dug into Hodeidah as it constitutes the key supply line to territory they control including Sanaa.

United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths held four days of talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa in a bid to avert an all-out battle for the city but flew out on Tuesday without announcing any breakthrough.

Officials in a Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen have shown journalists weapons they say they seized on the battlefield that show Iran is arming the insurgents.

The Yemen conflict has killed almost 10,000 people, majority civilians, since 2015.

"During all his visits, the envoy has discussed a comprehensive political solution that addresses. all the fronts and not just Hudaida only", he told Reuters by telephone. Iran has been accused by the US and the United Nations of supplying ballistic missile technology to the Houthis, something Tehran denies.

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