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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

In Yemen, a sanctuary for journalists on the way to Hodeidah's frontline

The Al Amalikah brigades media centre is a critical link between pro-government forces fighting for Hodeidah and the outside world

Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition take position during an attack on the outskirts of Hodeidah, Yemen, 13 June 2018. Najeeb Almahboobi / EPA
Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition take position during an attack on the outskirts of Hodeidah, Yemen, 13 June 2018. Najeeb Almahboobi / EPA

In a run-down building owned by a merchant in the port city of Mocha on Yemen's west coast, foreign and local correspondents are preparing to head to the frontline south of Hodeidah.

A Russian correspondent and his team laugh loudly in one room, preparing their piece to camera while a local television crew in an adjacent room work to resolve a patchy internet connection.

For the few journalists who have gained access and are intrepid enough to report on the operation to liberate Hodeidah, Yemen's largest port city, the Al Amalikah brigades media centre is a vital hub.

At the moment though, the risks of reporting on the conflict are overshadowed by the difficulty of connecting with their editors. "I am really frustrated," sighs Radfan Al Dubais of Al Arabiya television. "I feel that everything is lost because we gambled yesterday when we went deep with the advancing forces amid fierce clashes and at the end we found ourselves helpless because we couldn't upload any video footage of what he had seen."

Inside the media centre, everyone expects a fierce battle as coalition-backed troops push towards Houthi rebel-held Hodeidah. "What we have seen in the last two days indicates that the battle in the city is not going to be easy" Salah Al Akel of RT news channel said.

"Houthis are fighting tooth and nail because they know the cost of losing Al Hodiedah " says Mr Salah. "If they lose Hodeidah it means their future in Yemen is over."

Local reporter Najeeb Al-Kaladi walks into the room singing. "Hey guys, you forgot that tomorrow is Eid," he says. "What bad luck you have."

Mr Najeeb laughs.

"I am afraid of my wife, I lied to her, promising her that we will celebrate Eid together."

Updated: June 14, 2018 05:29 PM

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