ADEN: Yemen’s Houthis deployed additional forces in the main port city of Hodeidah on Sunday as a Saudi-led military coalition moved closer to the city centre in the largest offensive of the war, raising UN fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched its assault on the heavily defended Red Sea city on June 12 to try to weaken the Iran-aligned Houthi movement by cutting off a key supply line for the group which controls the capital Sanaa and most populated areas.
“There is a heavy deployment of armed Houthis in the city and new check points have been set up in neighbourhoods where there are supporters of the Tehama brigades,” said one resident, referring to a Yemeni faction from the Red Sea coastal plain that is fighting with coalition forces.
Fierce clashes broke out after midnight near Hodeidah University, around 3 km west of the city centre, on the coastal road linking the airport to the port, added the resident, who requested anonymity.
Coalition forces seized the airport on Wednesday and have been consolidating their hold in the area as UN efforts continued to reach a political deal that would avert an assault on the port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
The United Nations fears the escalation in fighting could exacerbate what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation. The fighting has wounded and displaced civilians.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had received 151 injured people in recent days in Al Thawrah Hospital, the main public medical facility serving Hodeidah, and expects to receive more as the fighting moves towards the city.