Saudi-led forces seize airport in Hodeida

Yemen's military forces have closed in on areas south and west of the port, pushing closer to an airport just south of the docks, sources in the army said.

The fighting between the Iran-backed rebels and a pro-government alliance, led by Saudi Arabia, has raised United Nations fears of humanitarian catastrophe in a country already teetering on the brink of starvation.

The United Nations and worldwide aid groups have cautioned that a protracted fight could force a shutdown of Hodeida's port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation.

Official in Ansarullah revolutionary group, Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, dismissed all reports that the Saudi-led forces have taken the airport of Hodeidah, stressing that the aggression powers sustain heavy losses.

Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who hold the country's capital of Sanaa, did not immediately acknowledge losing the airport.

The army on Saturday claimed it had seized the defunct Hodeida airport, which has been in Huthi hands since 2014.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a deadly military operation to capture Hudaydah after almost a month of sporadic clashes.

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The Saudi-led coalition earlier this year imposed a near-total blockade on Hodeida port, alleging it served as a major conduit for arms smuggling to the rebels by Riyadh's regional arch rival Iran.

The Western-backed Arab alliance launched an onslaught on Hodeidah six days ago in order to turn the tables in a long stalemated, proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has compounded instability across the Middle East.

Huthi representative Sharaf, however, accused the Saudi-backed government of "obstructing negotiations", saying the Hodeida offensive had foiled any potential peace talks in a statement carried by the rebels' Saba news agency.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is spending his second day in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital.

However, high-ranking Houthi commander Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the so-called revolutionary committee, said on Twitter on Saturday night that the "coastguard" affiliated with the militias detained a French foreign sailboat called M/Y_jehol_11.

"We have opened the road from Hodeidah to Sanaa to allow the militias to flee without resistance", Gargash said.

The Yemen war has claimed some 10,000 lives since the coalition intervened in 2015. The country's infrastructure and health system have been massively damaged and Yemen has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance.

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