ADEN: Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have seized two major militant supply routes into the key port city of Hodeidah, military sources said Wednesday.
Abdulrahman Saleh Abou Zaraa, head of the brigade fighting Yemen’s Houthi militants in Hodeidah province, told AFP his forces had taken the militants’ main supply route linking the port city to the capital Sanaa, known as Kilo 16.
Nearly three quarters of crucial imports to impoverished Yemen pass through Hodeidah, including humanitarian aid.
The Saudi-backed forces also seized a second supply route around Hodeidah, known as Kilo 10, earlier on Wednesday, military sources said.
Hodeidah, a city on Yemen’s Red Sea coastline, is held by the country’s Iran-backed militants in their war against the government and its allies, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The militants also control Sanaa.
The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Houthis of smuggling arms through Hodeidah, imposing a partial blockade on the port.
A military source in the brigade fighting in Hodeidah said Wednesday’s operation aimed to cut off supplies to the militants. The government coalition did not have immediate plans to try to take the city, the source said.
Fierce clashes broke out Wednesday between the Houthis and pro-government forces on the east and south of militant-held Hodeidah, leaving dozens of fighters dead, according to military and medical sources.
In June, Yemen’s pro-government forces, led on the ground by the United Arab Emirates, launched a major operation to retake both the city and port of Hodeidah.
In July, the coalition announced a temporary ceasefire in Hodeidah to give a chance to UN-brokered peace talks.
But UN attempts to hold peace talks between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Houthis, linked to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran, were abandoned on Saturday after the militants refused to leave Yemen for Geneva.
The Houthis accused the UN of failing to meet their conditions– including a plane to transport their wounded to nearby Oman and a guarantee their delegation would be allowed to return to Sanaa.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Houthis in 2015.
Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine.