Saudi-led coalition forces seize entrances to airport in Hodeida
Fighting has raged around Hodeida, the entry point for the vast majority of Yemen's imports, since the Wednesday launch of a sweeping Saudi and UAE-backed operation to seize it from Houthi rebels.
"We saw the resistance forces in the square at the northwestern entrance to the airport," a Hodeida resident said to Reuters, referring to Yemeni allies of the Saudi-led coalition. Two Yemeni military officials allied to the coalition confirmed this.
Coalition-backed Yemeni forces tweeted that they had also seized the airport's southern entrance and were advancing down a main road towards the Hodeida seaport.The UAE state news agency said Houthi fighters at the airport were crumbling. However, local military sources said the Houthis have surrounded themselves with a large number of landmines, meaning that it would take some time for coalition forces to battle their way to the main airport buildings.
Remaining defiant, rebel leader Abdel Malek Al-Houthi urged troops to "confront the forces of tyranny", warning they would recapture areas taken by pro-government forces by "bringing huge numbers (of fighters) to the battle", according to the rebels' Al-Masirah TV.
"The western coast will turn into a big swamp for the invaders," he added.The battle has so far killed at least 139 fighters, according to medical and military sources.
The increased campaign comes at a time when millions of Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, literally, the breaking of the fast, at the end of a month of fasting the Muslim holy month Ramadan.
Celebrations, however, have not spread to Hodeida, where people fear an imminent siege and are fleeing the intense government shelling.
The assault has sparked fears for the area's 600,000 residents, with aid and rights groups warning it could spell disaster across Yemen, a country already teetering on the brink of famine.
The UN's envoy to Yemen was in Amman this week following an intense round of shuttle diplomacy with Houthi rebels, who control the port, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and urged the parties to keep the port open to humanitarian supplies.
Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign since 2015 to push back the Houthis after the rebels seized the capital Sanaa, and restore the internationally recognised government to power.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands wounded in what has been described by the UN as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.