Sana’a, June 16 (IANS) Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday that they have liberated the airport of the main port city of Hudaydah from Houthi rebels.
The military units have begun to clear the airfield of mines and explosive devices planted by the rebels, the BBC reported citing the Army as saying.
Following the development, Houthi spokesperson Mohamed Abdel Salam said on Twitter that the withdrawal of his fighters was part of a tactical strategy and as a consequence, the mercenaries entered the airport.
He added that his fighters captured 36 soldiers loyal to the internationally-backed Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is now in the coastal city of Aden, the government’s provisional capital.
The development took place on the fourth day of an offensive to seize the strategic city, located on the Red Sea coast with its port as one of the main entry points for essential supplies to the country, which is suffering the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN.
Military and medical sources told Efe news that more than 300 personnel belonging to both the Houthis and Yemeni forces were killed in the last two days of the offensive, while more than 550 were injured.
Residents of the area said that they have heard explosions and shots since Saturday morning in the airfield to the south of the city, 10 km from the port of Hudaydah, the second largest in the country after the port of Aden.
They added that the government forces continued to forge ahead after the airport was captured in order to take control of the southern entrance of the city, where violent clashes were ongoing.
According to the residents, both sides made a safe corridor for 4,000 al-Manzar neighbourhood inhabitants after a woman and a man were killed and another 30 injured in clashes.
Since late 2014, Yemen remains immersed in a bloody civil war after Houthi rebels seized both its capital Sana’a and its northern and western regions.
The conflict intensified in March 2015 when the Saudi Arabia-led alliance intervened in Yemen.