The Saudi-led coalition fully captured Hodeidah airport from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Yemen’s government military and the coalition said on Tuesday, in a significant step to a takeover of the key port city.
Saudi-owned Al Arabia network reported that residents of the strategic city said battles were also raging on the coastal road leading to the densely populated city centre from the airport, with Apache helicopters of the Western-backed coalition providing air support.
“We can hear the sounds of artillery, mortars and sporadic machine gun fire. The Houthis have been using tanks,” a resident close to the coastal strip told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be identified.
“Water has been cut off to many of the areas near the Corniche area because the Houthis have dug trenches and closed water pipes. Many people are fleeing these neighbourhoods and going deeper into the city centre.”
The Houthis said they fired a missile targeting a facility of oil giant Saudi Aramco in Asir in southwestern Saudi Arabia, Houthi-run media reported.
An Aramco official said the company’s facilities were safe and operating normally.
Saudi and UAE state media accused the Houthis of shelling civilian districts. Residents said the Houthi tanks were targeting coalition forces.
The Arab alliance launched the onslaught on Hodeidah, the Houthis’ sole port, on June 12 to try and turn the tables in a long-stalemated proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has exacerbated turmoil across the Middle East.
“They have stormed the airport,” an anti-Houthi Yemeni military source said on Tuesday.
The escalation in fighting has wounded and displaced dozens of civilians and hampered humanitarian agencies trying to send vital aid to million of Yemenis via the Red Sea port.