Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Yemeni government forces, backed by the United Arab Emirates, entered Hodeida airport on Tuesday, the UAE said, as the fight for control of the rebel-held port city intensifies.
“With the participation and support of the Emirati armed forces, the joint Yemeni resistance (army) entered Hodeida airport,” the UAE state news agency WAM tweeted.
A Yemeni military source confirmed the report to AFP.
Troops from the UAE and neighbouring Saudi Arabia are the mainstay of an Arab coalition that has been fighting the Huthi Shiite rebels in support of the Yemeni government since 2015.
The coalition launched a major offensive on Wednesday to drive the rebels out of Hodeida, a Red Sea port which is the entry point for some three-quarters of Yemen’s imports.
Saudi Arabia accuses its regional arch rival Iran of smuggling arms to the rebels through the port, a charge Tehran denies.
Riyadh and its allies imposed a blockade of the port earlier this year in response to a series of rebel missile attacks on Saudi territory.
It sparked an outcry from relief organisations who warned of the risk of famine if aid shipments and commercial food imports were not fully restored.
The United Nations has described the conflict as the world’s largest single humanitarian catastrophe.
Around 22 million people are in need of aid, with 8.4 million of them on the brink of starvation, according to the UN.