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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

More than 100 Houthis killed in Hodeidah skirmishes

High-ranking rebel officers were among the dead as pro-government forces advance

More than 100 Iran-backed Houthi fighters were killed this week by Yemen's pro-government forces as they hold a tight defensive line around the city of Hodeidah, an army spokesman told The National.

Colonel Mamoon Al Mahjami said on Sunday that 150 rebel fighters died in skirmishes since renewed fighting broke out on Friday, including high-ranking Houthi officers.

Clashes have been ongoing on the outskirts of the vital port city, with the Arab-backed Al Amalikah brigades hold recently retaken territory and prepare to advance towards Al Masna street near Al Garasi road - a key link between Kilo 16 and the city's eastern entrance.

Dozens of Houthi fighters were also injured and some 100 arrested, according to the colonel.

Meanwhile, said Col Al Mahjami, "the offensive in the western axis has stopped at the University of Hodeidah where the forces of Al Amalikah took full control over the headquarters of the medical college on Saturday".

Civilians inside Hodeidah told The National on Sunday that the city had witnessed the most intense clashes since the start of the operation five months ago.

Houthi vehicles were spotted transporting casualties towards the north of the city, while dozens of fighters fled the battleground, a resident told The National.

"The Houthis are living very critical times in the city of Hodeidah, their force has been shrinking under intensified air strikes launched by the Arab Coalition jets," said a resident who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

"They use the public hospitals as fortifications and weapons depots to avoid being hit by aircraft."

In addition, said the resident, internet has been down in the city since last night, making it harder for residents to communicate.

Pro-government forces have been preparing for months to launch a major push to liberate the city and many saw the recent increase in ground forces in the area as the beginning of the recapture.

However, the announcement of a renewed diplomatic effort to take place in the coming weeks in Sweden has again placed the focus on a diplomatic solution.

Already, the US the UK and other European states have put their weight behind talks to avert a major humanitarian catastrophe as well as beginning to discuss Houthi's handing over heavy weapons and establishing a demilitarized buffer zone on the Saudi border as the beginning of a negotiation for a wider settlement.