UAE-backed Yemeni government forces fought their way into al-Hodeida airport on Tuesday (June 19th), pressing an offensive that has seen some of the most intense fighting of a three-year war against the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).
The UAE said its troops and Yemeni forces had entered the airport in al-Hodeida -- a Red Sea port city that is a key aid hub and the entry point for three-quarters of Yemen's imports.
"With the participation and support of the Emirati armed forces, the joint Yemeni resistance (army) entered al-Hodeida airport," the UAE state news agency WAM tweeted.
A Yemeni military source confirmed to AFP that troops had entered the Houthi militia's base at the disused airport on the southern edge of the city.
Bracing for street fighting
Al-Hodeida's residents are now bracing for what they fear will be devastating street fighting, as tanks and buses carrying uniformed troops roll through the empty streets of the once-bustling city.
One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of arrest, said civilians had been "banned from using their phones to take pictures and are questioned about their movements if they are seen in the streets".
The Houthis have also begun to dig trenches in the streets, he said.
Fierce fighting in the area has already driven 5,200 families from their homes as pro-government forces advanced up the Red Sea coast, according to the UN.
UN envoy leaves empty-handed
UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been holding talks in Sanaa since Saturday to seek concessions from Houthi leaders that might avoid all-out fighting in the streets of al-Hodeida.
Griffiths flew out of Sanaa on Tuesday without making any comment to journalists.
The Yemeni government and its allies have insisted that the Houthis must fully withdraw from the city and turn over the port to UN supervision.
But the Houthis have so far agreed only to share control of the port with the UN.