Saudi-led coalition forces have seized Yemen’s Hodeida airport from Iran-aligned Houthis, a big step toward recapturing the port city following a week of fighting that spilled into residential neighborhoods.
The airport’s seizure Wednesday was announced by coalition commander Abdul Salamm al-Shehi in a video posted by the United Arab Emirates’ official WAM news agency.
The effort by the Saudi alliance to take the city has fueled fears of a humanitarian crisis, as it is the Houthis primary entry point for imports and the lifeline for millions of Yemeni citizens.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemeni Civil War in 2015 to help the Yemeni government suppress Houthi control of the country’s large population centers and to reinstall its internationally recognized government.
The coalition has accused regional opponent Iran of using the city as a conduit for arms that are smuggled to rebel forces. Iran has denied the allegation.
The United Nations has warned that any attack on the port in Hodeida could disrupt shipments of humanitarian aid to the nearly 8.5 million Yemenis facing imminent starvation.
City residents are bracing for what they fear will be more widespread street fighting as tanks and busloads of troops navigate empty streets of the once-bustling city.