Yemen's gov't forces brace for large anti-Houthi military campaign

Li Jiayao

ADEN, Yemen, June 1 (Xinhua) -- The pro-government Yemeni forces sent reinforcements and armored vehicles bracing for an all-out military offensive against the Shiite Houthi rebels in the port city of Hodeidah on Friday, an army commander told Xinhua.

After making gains in the ongoing fighting with the Iranian-backed Houthis in the western coastal areas, the government forces are now bracing to dislodge the rebels out from the strategic port and from the whole city of Hodeidah, the army commander said on condition of anonymity.

According to the army source, Yemeni soldiers trained and well-equipped by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrived from the port city of Aden to support the pro-government forces positioned near Hodeidah's airport.

The soldiers accompanied by professional snipers will participate in the anti-Houthi military campaign aimed at seizing control over Hodeidah province in the next days, the source said.

Meanwhile, ferocious fighting continued between the Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces in areas located around Hodeidah amid intensified airstrikes by Saudi-led warplanes.

An officer told Xinhua by phone that more areas around Hodeidah were seized by the pro-government forces on Friday morning, as the Houthi rebels started to withdraw to other areas inside Hodeidah.

A local medical official told Xinhua several people including civilians were killed in Hodeidah's fighting and shelling during the past few hours.

Military analysts said that the battle for Hodeidah will not be easy as the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have stuffed thousands of landmines and explosives all around the city.

Backed by the UAE, the newly-recruited troops alongside with Southern Resistance battalions made significant advances last week and liberated Durayhmi district and other surrounding areas from Houthi fighters in Hodeidah.

The Iranian-backed Houthis vowed to fight tooth and nail to maintain their grip over the strategic port city and dispatched elite forces from Sanaa.

The Yemeni forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE continue in making advancement during the battles taking place with Houthis on Yemen's west coast near the port city of Hodeidah, a crucial import hub for humanitarian supplies.

Local Yemeni observers said that the Houthis are facing a mounting pressure and failed to prevent the government forces push in the Red Sea coast areas.

The Houthi rebels are losing their grip on the western provinces and their territory is shrinking daily.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia leads an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Houthi rebels forced him into exile.

The United Nations has listed Yemen as having the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with 7 million Yemenis on the brink of famine and cholera causing more than 2,000 deaths.



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