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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

UAE Armed Forces intercept six Houthi missiles over Yemen's Al Khoukha

The Houthis have been launching strikes towards heavily populated areas in Yemen

In this February 12, 2018 photo, Yemeni forces patrol Al Khoukha, Yemen. Nariman El-Mofty / AP
In this February 12, 2018 photo, Yemeni forces patrol Al Khoukha, Yemen. Nariman El-Mofty / AP

The UAE Armed Forces intercepted six ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi rebels towards Yemen’s town of Al Khoukha, south of the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah.

“The Houthi militia was targeting troops deployed in Al Khoukha, which was liberated from the rebels in December 2017,” Omar Saleh, an army spokesman, told The National late on Tuesday.

“Houthi fighters, who still have a presence in some mountainous areas along the borders of Al Hodeidah and Raymah provinces, have in the last couple of days been acting crazy.

“They have targeted heavily populated villages and public markets in the Hays district with mortars and artillery, and they know that these places will have many people.”

Meanwhile, a photographer said on Sunday that Yemeni forces seized from a farm south of Al Hodeidah on the Red Sea a number of ballistic missiles, trucks and armoured vehicles that belonged to the Houthi rebels.

Yemeni forces, backed by the UAE Armed Forces – fighting with the Arab coalition on behalf of the internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi – have been carrying out operations to sweep Al Duraihimi and neighboring areas that had been captured from the Houthis for landmines, Mohammed Al Shilli, an activist, told The National.

“The forces are stationed in Al Duraihimi, about 14 kilometres from Al Hodeidah airport, which is under the control of the [Houthis], who are taking a break to mobilise,” he said.

Yemeni government forces are closing in on Al Hodeidah, the war-ravaged country's main conduit for humanitarian aid, the Saudi-led coalition has said, prompting the Iran-backed militants to call for a "mass mobilisation" to thwart any offensive.

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Read more: Hodeidah battle is make or break moment for Houthi rebels in Yemen

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The Red Sea port has been a key point of contention since the coalition intervened at the request of the government in 2015 against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

Al Hodeidah is Yemen’s largest entry point for aid on which millions depend, as the country teeters on the brink of famine.

For the coalition, it is also considered the entry point for rebel weaponry, including ballistic missiles, which it accuses regional rival Iran of supplying, although Tehran denies the claims.

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

His comments were met with defiance from Hamoud Abbad, the Houthi-appointed governor of the capital Sanaa, who called for "mass mobilisation" to defend the western front.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam admitted early on Tuesday that their troops are struggling to fend off the coalition offensive.

"Our withdrawal doesn't mean that we are defeated,” he tweeted. "If we withdraw it is for the safety of the civilians or a temporary withdrawal to try new military tactics. Don't worry, the situation is under control.”

Local media reports said that the Houthi rebels have withdrawn from the battlefront in Nehim and Marib to be sent to the bordering areas west of Al Hodeidah.