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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 May 2018

Yemeni forces prepare to recapture Hodeidah

Capturing the Houthi-held city would mark a major victory for the Arab coalition-backed forces

FILE PHOTO: A soldier walks at Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A soldier walks at Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo

The Yemeni military, backed by UAE forces, are preparing a final push to recapture Hodeidah province, home to the country’s largest port city.

The military launched a renewed push at the beginning of this year to combat the Houthi presence in territories along the Red Sea coast of Yemen.

Known as the “Giant Brigade,” the special forces of the Yemeni military are now besieging rebel strongholds in the south-west provinces of the country after severing crucial supply lines in early May.

The Iran-backed Houthis are struggling to reinforce and resupply their units along the west coast battlefront. They are now forced to using tough mountain passes to supply provisions, a process which can take weeks.

Hodeidah, Yemen’s third largest city and home to its biggest port, will represent a major prize for the national forces in what has been an arduous military campaign.

The capture of Hodeidah would allow Yemen’s forces to re-open the port, which has been placed under blockade by the Houthis in the past.

Securing the port would allow for the disrupted provision of more than half of the supplies and humanitarian aid needed in the beleaguered country. This is much needed as Yemen is currently facing disease, famine and the worst cholera outbreak in recent history.

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The Yemeni military launched a three-pronged offensive in December to recapture the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, with backing from the Arab coalition.

The Iran-backed rebels hijacked the capital in 2015. The UAE, as part of the Saudi-led coalition, intervened on behalf of the internationally-recognised government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to restore Yemen’s legitimacy.

Meanwhile, the military has continued to make significant gains in Al Barah junction west of Taez and has seized control of several major routes in the southwest, UAE state news agency, Wam reported.

The military manoeuvre came at a critical point as Houthi militias were beginning to entrench themselves in Hodeidah and secure supply routes from the rebel-held north.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia's air force announced it had killed 38 Houthi militias in a series of air strikes on rebel-held territories, including an operation which levelled the presidential palace in the capital.

The rebels have launched ballistic missiles, believed to be Iranian made, on Riyadh, targeting civilian areas.

The recent military escalation is making the job of peace envoy more difficult for Martin Griffiths, who was appointed UN special envoy to Yemen in January to navigate a political peace plan. Increased violence could take peace "off the table," Mr Griffiths recently told the Security Council.

Last month, the Arab Coalition killed Saleh Al Sammad, the second-in-command, of the Houthi forces.