June 16 (UPI) — Yemeni Army backed by a Saudi-UAE led coalition retook an airport in Yemen seized by Houthi rebels, military officials said through social media Saturday.
Army forces backed by a Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led coalition have freed the airport “from the grip of the Houthi militias,” the Yemeni Army’s media office said in a Saturday tweet.
Army engineering teams have begun de-mining the Hudaida International Airport area, the tweet said.
Houthi sources have not confirmed the airport’s loss yet.
The Yemeni government has accused Houthi rebels of using the airport to smuggle weapons from Iran into the country, Al Jazeera reported.
U.N.’s special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffith arrived in the capital of Yemen, Sana, on Saturday to urge the warring camps to show restraint.
Houthi rebels captured the port city of Hudaida, which has about 600,000 people, in late 2014.
The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which is part of the Saudi coalition force, attacked Yemen’s port city Wednesday killing more than 250 Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The Wednesday attack including airstrikes led to the capture of 140 Houthi soldiers and closure of Hudaida’s Red Sea port, which affects food and medicine deliveries to Yemen. The Saudi-led offensive moved within 8 miles of the port city earlier this month in preparation for the large-scale assault.
The U.N. Security Council has expressed grave concern.
“Our humanitarian partners are rushing to provide life‑saving assistance to thousands of vulnerable families in the port city of Hodeidah, where fighting has escalated,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. Secretary‑General, said in a daily briefing Thursday.
Wednesday’s was the largest battle of Yemen’s three-year civil war between the Saudi alliance and Houthi rebels. More than 10,000 people have died and 3 million have been displaced in that time.