Watch the first moments in the battle to liberate Hodeidah Airport

Frederick Owens
June 23, 2018

Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led air force coalition on Tuesday recaptured an airport that has exchanged hands several times in a violent battle to wrest control of port-city of Hudaydah from Houthi insurgents, military officials said.

The airport, which includes civilian and military zones, was now being combed for any remaining pockets of rebels after days of intense fighting, said Abdulrehman al-Mahrami, who leads the Yemeni forces on the west coast front.

The offensive for Hodeida has faced criticism from global aid groups, who fear a protracted fight could force a shutdown of the city's port and potentially tip millions into starvation.

In Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein voiced concern that the Arab offensive could cause "enormous civilian casualties and have a disastrous impact on life-saving aid to millions of people which comes through the port".

The war has seen over 10,000 people killed and sparked a major cholera epidemic.

Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the Coalition forces to restore legitimacy in Yemen, said that the missile was launched deliberately from Saada governorate of Yemen to target densely populated civilian areas. "Coalition will continue to work with aid agencies on the ground to ensure that once the port is liberated we will quickly increase the capacity of the port".

The UN's special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was in the country from Saturday to Tuesday seeking an agreement with the Houthis to avoid an all-out assault on the city.

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The offensive has faced criticism from global aid groups, who fear a protracted fight could force a shutdown of the port and potentially tip millions into starvation.

"The political moves that are being proposed are being supported by us. but the situation is now very volatile", he said. However, they said warplanes continued to bombard Houthi positions closer to the city centre, where the rebels have begun to entrench themselves in expectation of fierce street-to-street fighting.

Iran long has denied arming the rebels, known as Houthis, despite reports by the United Nations, Western countries and outside groups linking them to the rebels' arsenal.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi government.

In its daily report, the United Nations agency said fighting has engulfed several districts outside of Hodeida, prompting relief agencies to relocate stocks away from the battles, which has made some aid warehouses inaccessible.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies joined the Yemen war that year, after President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels overran much of the country.

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