Yemen forces push towards Hodeidah as death toll mounts

ADEN: Yemeni pro-government forces said Wednesday they had advanced closer to the militia-held port city of Hodeidah after fierce battles that have killed nearly 200 fighters in the past week.

The clashes come as the United Nations pushes to restart negotiations between the warring parties, after planned talks in Geneva collapsed in September before they even began.

In the past 24 hours, 27 Iran-backed Houthi militia and 12 pro-government fighters have been killed on the outskirts of Hodeidah city, a medical source told AFP on Wednesday.

A pro-government military source said that loyalists backed by a Saudi-led coalition made “limited advances” towards the city and its Red Sea port, through which more than 70 percent of the impoverished country’s imports pass.

The coalition is supporting the Yemeni troops on the ground with fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters, he told AFP.

Hodeidah, one of the last Houthi strongholds on Yemen’s western coast, was seized by the militia along with the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened on the side of the government the following year.

Hodeidah port is crucial for aid delivery and food imports to Yemen, where famine looms over 14 million people and a child dies every 10 minutes from easily preventable diseases, according to the UN.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran of using Hodeidah port to smuggle missiles to the Houthis, a charge Tehran denies.

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