Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says rebels are nearly surrounded in campaign to retake vital port city
Anwar Gargash hails gains against Yemen's Houthi rebels in Hodeidah
Yemen's Houthi rebels are nearly surrounded in the city of Hodeidah and low on morale after recent heavy losses, Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Friday.
"Ongoing operations in Hodeidah are achieving their goals. The Houthis' morale is at its lowest with huge losses in their ranks as the siege around them is drawing towards completion," Dr Gargash wrote on Twitter.
His comments follow a renewed offensive against the rebels in Hodeidah after they refused to attend UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva last week.
The Houthis' "absence from the Geneva talks translates to on the ground losses, one after the other," Dr Gargash said. "We are convinced that the liberation of Hodeidah is the key to a solution in Yemen."
The Saudi-led military coalition supporting Yemen's government, which includes the UAE, resumed air strikes against the rebels in Hodeidah on Wednesday after a two-month ceasefire to facilitate the UN peace efforts. On Friday, a Saudi pilot and his co-pilot were killed when their helicopter crashed in Yemen as result of a technical fault, Wam reported.
Meanwhile Yemeni forces seized the road between the port city and Sanaa, the Houthi-held capital, cutting off the main route for rebel supplies and reinforcements. Government forces reported scores of Houthi fighters killed as they advanced along the road towards Hodeidah from the east.
There were also reports of residents in Hodeidah taking up arms against the rebels.
Hodeidah port is Yemen's main entry point for desperately needed food imports and humanitarian aid, and rebels have used their control of it to gain leverage.
Dr Gargash said on Wednesday that the Houthi failure to show up in Geneva was proof that Hodeidah had to be liberated from rebel control.
The Geneva process initiated by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths was the first attempt to find a political solution to the war since negotiations in Kuwait collapsed in 2016.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict in March 2015, months after the rebels seized the capital, at the request of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi's internationally recognised government.
The United States has supported the coalition by supplying advanced weaponry, sharing intelligence and offering aerial refuelling to Gulf warplanes.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified to Congress that the coalition was taking care to avoid harm to civilians from its military operations, a condition for continued US support.
Mr Pompeo and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, discussed the regional security situation during a phone call on Thursday, as well as ways to increase mutually beneficial co-operation between their countries, state news agency Wam reported.
Editorial: Regaining Hodeidah could end Yemen war