Saudi-led forces begin assault to take vital Yemen port
A Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began an assault Wednesday morning on Yemen's port city of Hodeida, a crucial battle in the 3-year-old conflict that aid agencies warned could push the Arab world's poorest country into further chaos.
The Saudi-led coalition forces on Wednesday launched a major military operation to recapture Yemeni port of Al-Hudaydah from Shia Houthi rebels.
"The operation to recapture Al-Hudaydah city and port has begun," Yemeni military spokesman Abdullah al-Shuabi told Anadolu Agency.
Sounds of explosions and bombing were heard in the southern outskirts of the port city by Saudi-led coalition warplanes and warships.
Al-Shuabi said government forces have captured major military sites at the city's southern entrance.
He said scores of Houthi rebels had surrendered themselves during the first hours of the offensive.
There was no comment from the Shia Houthi group on the claim.
In a statement, the Yemeni government said it had consumed all peaceful and political means to dislodge Houthi rebels from the strategic port.
"The liberation of Al-Hudaydah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas," it said in the statement cited by the official Saba news agency.
"The liberation of the port is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia and will secure marine shipping in Bab al-Mandab strait and cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood," it added.
Al-Hudaydah port is a vital supply line through which as much as 80 percent of humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Yemen goes through.
Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Shia Houthi group overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies -- who accuse the Houthis of serving as Iranian proxies -- launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.
The ongoing violence has devastated Yemen's infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as one of "the worst humanitarian disasters in modern times".