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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Houthi retreat signalled by sale of vehicles

Hodeidah city residents say hundreds of Houthi fighters have fled 

Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition take position at an area after seizing it from the Houthi militia in the western province of Hodeidah. Stringer / EPA 
Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition take position at an area after seizing it from the Houthi militia in the western province of Hodeidah. Stringer / EPA 

Yemen's rebels will on Tuesday be holding a public auction of vehicles that had been abandoned in the rebel-held port city, a move indicating the militia's imminent retreat as government forces close in on the area.

"The Yemeni army, backed by the coalition, is around 20 kilometres outside Hodeidah and military operations are ongoing," coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki said in Riyadh.

Yemeni troops liberated Al Zaraniq camp and are now stationed close to Hodeidah's southern entry point, the media officer for Al Amalikah brigades told The National late on Monday.

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"Our forces, along with the UAE troops, are still clearing thousands of landmines planted by the Houthi militia in the streets and along the gates leading to the airport," said Aseel Al Sakladi.

"Our central command decided to clean the roads of the landmines and secure our back and cope with the last pockets affiliated with the Houthis in the area before storming the airport."

According to residents of Hodeidah, hundreds of Houthi fighters have fled the city.

"[Dozens of] Houthi military vehicles transferring fighters, among them top leaders, withdrew to the mountainous areas of Al Sukhna and Bura areas, the bordering province located west of Hodeidah," one resident told The National.

"The Houthi fighters completely disappeared especially from the streets near the area of the airport. The streets looked empty, even the checkpoints which were spread in every corner in the streets near to the airport don't exist any more," said Mohammed Abkar, another resident.

"Sporadic confrontations continued up to midnight on Monday in some outposts where Houthi elements still exist in the surrounding area leading to the airport."

In a rare broadcast, Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi acknowledged recent rebel losses.

Hodeidah's port is a vital lifeline through which most of Yemen's food and medicine is shipped. The coalition accuses the Houthis of using Hodeidah and other ports to receive weapons and ammunition from Iran. Tehran denies arming the rebels.