by Murad Abdu, Mohamed al-Azaki
SANNA/ADEN, Yemen, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) — The Yemeni government forces continued on Monday their fight with the Houthi rebels and seized more ground in the country’s Red Sea coastal city of Hodeidah, after a a series of airstrikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition.
Forces of Giants Brigades captured three main entrances of the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah and are still attempting to completely besiege the entire city from different directions, an army commander told Xinhua by phone.
Government forces managed to capture the 22nd May hospital, key neighborhoods and AlSaleh city following ferocious fighting with Houthis, leaving scores killed, he said on condition of anonymity.
“The forces loyal to the government have a well-studied military plan and everything is going in the right direction till the moment,” the commander said.
“Houthis are retreating backward and failed to carry out counter-offensive attacks because the government forces have modern armored vehicles,” he added.
Warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition also participated in the ongoing anti-Houthi offensive in Hodeidah, causing casualties among rebels.
A resident based in the city said the pro-Houthi forces blocked the main roads in Hodeidah with several unused containers and deployed elite soldiers in and around the residential areas.
“The non-stop fighting deprived scores of families from fleeing to outside Hodeidah because no safe exits were available,” said the resident, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Humanitarian organizations should immediately intervene and rescue the besieged families by securing safe roads for fleeing from their war-torn areas,” the Hodeidah-based resident said.
Still, two highways were opened for the residents to flee from the approaching clashes, according to pro-government media outlets.
Meanwhile, Houthi-run Al Masirah TV reported that a food factory worker was killed and seven others wounded when an artillery shell hit the factory earlier the day near Kilo16 road.
An official of the Yemeni government told Xinhua that “Houthis have new tactics and started using underground tunnels to infiltrate behind the advanced soldiers in Hodeidah.”
He confirmed that the government forces lost several soldiers before discovering the tunnels that failed to slow down the progress.
Ali Khalaki, an Aden-based professor and military analyst, said the long-awaited military operation to capture Hodeidah has just started and it will achieve the desired goals before the end of November.
“It looks like the coalition-backed government forces received a green light from the international community to end the battle of Hodeidah before the period declared by Washington to begin new negotiations,” Khalaki said.
Mohamed Alhouthi, president of pro-Houthi Revolutionary Committee, said the military escalation in Hodeidah “exposes the falsity of the American statements that demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
“The killing of civilians will block any future negotiations aimed at bringing peace. We hold the United States along with its allies fully responsible for the crimes against our people,” Alhouthi said in a statement.
Hodeidah is the most important and only point of entry for food and basic supplies to Yemen’s northern provinces controlled by Houthis, including the capital Sanaa.
The Yemeni government is seeking to expel Houthi rebels out 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 the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 7 million Yemenis on the brink of famine and cholera causing more than 2,000 deaths.