ADEN, Yemen, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — Intense fighting flared up between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces and the Houthi fighters in the Red Sea coast city of Hodeidah on Friday, causing an unknown number of casualties.
In past hours, pro-government forces engaged in ferocious fighting with the Houthis around the University of Hodeidah, causing huge blasts in the area, according to local sources.
An officer of the pro-government Giants Brigades told Xinhua by phone that “the large anti-Houthi military operation which will liberate the Hodeidah’s port has not started yet.”
“The Houthis are frightened and started attacking our positions in a desperate attempt to impede the progress of government forces,” the officer said.
He added that armored vehicles, tanks and helicopters will participate in the anti-Houthi military operation in the forthcoming hours.
Residents confirmed to Xinhua that the two-warring sides started exchanging artillery shelling and large explosions were heard across the city.
The ongoing fighting is moving closer from the Thawrah public hospital and other medical centers, posing a real threat to people there, according to residents.
A pro-government medical source said that mortar shells landed on residential areas and caused casualties among citizens.
Overnight, warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition launched a series of airstrikes and targeted military bases in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
The Houthi-affiliated Masirah television station reported that more than 30 airstrikes hit various locations in and around Sanaa.
Yemeni observers said that the ongoing mobilization and the escalating fighting in Hodeidah will put more additional strains to any cease-fire ahead of the next peace negotiations facilitated by the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths announced his commitment to bringing the warring Yemeni parties to the negotiation table within a month, stressing that dialogue remains the only path to reach an inclusive agreement in the country.
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government announced later that it is willing to restart stalled peace talks with the Shiite Houthis to find solutions to end the country’s years-long conflict.
The Yemeni government is seeking to expel Houthi rebels out of the strategic city of Hodeidah in recent days despite warnings by international humanitarian agencies.
The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014.
Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Houthi rebels forced him into exile.
The United Nations has listed Yemen as the country with world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with seven million Yemenis on the brink of famine and cholera causing more than 2,000 deaths.