A Saudi-UAE-led military coalition and pro-government forces in Yemen have launched a new “vast offensive” to capture the strategic port of city of Hodeidah from Houthi rebels, according to the country’s internationally recognised government.
“A military operation has begun and the national army forces have advanced towards the north and the western sides of the city of Hodeidah, progressing from all front with the support of the Arab coalition,” the Aden-based government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said in a statement on Friday.
“Fierce battles are taking place at these moments,” it added.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels, who have been controlling Hodeidah since 2014, the same year they also seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah, a Red Sea port city and the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies, risks escalating the war-torn country’s dire humanitarian crisis.
The Saudi-UAE alliance, which is backed by the United States, launched a wide-ranging operation to take the seaport in June but suspended it ahead of planned United Nations-sponsored peace talks between Hadi’s government and the Houthis.
The campaign resumed in September after the talks collapsed before even starting.
Earlier on Friday, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said as many as 445,000 people had fled the city since June.
In a statement, the UNHCR said it was concerned for the safety of those still trapped in Hodeidah as the intensified military operations were “increasingly confining populations and cutting off exit routes”.
“People needing to flee for safety are unable to do so,” it added.
Al Jazeera and news agencies