Joint Yemeni forces, backed by the Arab coalition, have reached the vicinity of al-Hodeidah airport as they press ahead with Operation Golden Victory, launched Wednesday (June 13th) to liberate al-Hodeidah from the Houthis (Ansarallah).
The forces have arrived in al-Duwar al-Kabeer area at the entrance of al-Hodeidah, which is now within range of fire, Yemeni officials said.
Heavy fighting left 39 people dead on Thursday in the area south of al-Hodeidah, with the Houthis suffering 30 fatalities and nine pro-government troops losing their lives to mines and snipers, AFP reported.
On Friday, a Houthi attack killed 12 pro-government soldiers on the coast road from the government-held ports of Khokha and Mokha, military and medical sources said.
Joint Yemeni forces, supported by the UAE forces, which are part of the Arab coalition, continue to advance on the ground towards the centre of al-Hodeidah.
Combat operations are focused on the area south of the port and near its airport, where joint forces plan to advance along the strategic coastline.
Other forces are planning to surround the Houthis from the east, and to join forces with the units that are advancing along the coast.
Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany on Thursday said pro-government forces were holding off on advancing on the port for the time being, and "are not planning to destroy the infrastructure".
President arrives in Aden
Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Thursday (June 14th) arrived in the temporary capital of Aden.
"The hour of victory and truth has drawn near, and victory will be to the will of the Yemeni people, who dream of building a stable and secure country where justice, equality and good governance prevail," Hadi told local media.
This will come "in the framework of a new federal Yemen, for which our people have offered huge sacrifices", he added.
The battle for al-Hodeidah is essentially a humanitarian battle waged by the Yemeni people to put an end to the suffering of millions who face famine, said Mohammed Anaam, former editor of General People’s Congress (GPC) mouthpiece al-Mithaq.
"Such famine was brought about by Houthi gangs who exploit Yemen’s western coast and al-Hodeidah to control aid and commercial imports, on the one hand, and to receive Iranian-smuggled weapons," he told Al-Mashareq.
"The battle to liberate al-Hodeidah and its port is a decisive one for the Yemeni people who aspire to security, stability and peace," he said.
The UN Security Council on Thursday called for the port to be kept open to deliveries of vital food and humanitarian supplies.
Hopes for swift resolution
"The people of al-Hodeidah are united with the national resistance and joint forces," Anaam said. "Moreover, there is major popular rejection of the Houthi gangs across Yemen, especially among the people of the western coast."
He stressed the need to resolve the battle quickly.
"We are facing a gang that has rigged al-Hodeidah with landmines and explosives, and that is using civilians as human shields," he said.
"Liberating al-Hodeidah will be followed by the fall of other cities and districts," political researcher Abdul Malek al-Youssefi told Al-Mashareq.
"The fact that the forces already have reached the airport outskirts and entered some farms in its vicinity shows that the pro-government forces, supported by the coalition, are determined to liberate the city and its port," he said.
The Houthis have used the port "to smuggle weapons and rockets from Iran, and also to generate huge revenues that help them fund their military operations", he said.
Factors that would speed up the resolution "include the uprising of people inside the city, sealing off the roads that lead to al-Hodeidah and considering it a closed military zone", said GPC General Committee member Adel al-Shujaa.
This would include sealing any Red Sea access points, he told Al-Mashareq.