The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has sent more than 10,000 new troops towards Hodeidah, a vital rebel-held port city ahead of a new assault, Yemeni government officials said Tuesday.
The pro-government coalition deployed the reinforcements to the Red Sea coast ahead of a new offensive on Hodeida "within days", a military official told AFP. He said their aim was to "secure areas liberated" from the Iran-linked Houthi rebels. He added that forces from Sudan formed part of the coalition, and had moved in to "secure" areas around the city.
This news comes even as the last few days have thrown up sporadic reports of 55-150 Houthi fighters being killed in fresh fighting.
Houthi rebels, for the past 10 days, have been stationing fighters on rooftops of buildings in Hodeida city in preparation of the assault, government military officials told AFP. The port of Hodeidah is the entry point for more than 70 per cent of imports to the impoverished country, which is teetering on the edge of famine.
The war has left almost 10,000 people dead since the coalition intervened, and sparked what the UN has labelled the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
More than 22 million Yemenis - three quarters of Yemen’s population - are in need of humanitarian assistance. People struggling to survive are also confronted with a collapsed economy, leaving government clerks without pay and state institutions practically crippled.
The Saudi-coalition led siege of Houthi controlled areas and other parts of Yemen has led to 25% of population, 7.5 million people, in need of nutrition support and 50% of all children are stunted. 2.9 million children and women are acutely malnourished.
The newly appointed Yemeni prime minister said on Tuesday that the government was committed to improving the country's economic situation. "It will focus on addressing the flaws in management and the economy... and on the flaws in state institutions," Moeen Abulmalik Saeed told the state-run Saba news agency on his first official visit to the government's de facto capital Aden.
The Yemeni riyal has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Houthi rebels.
The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Houthis back, but the rebels still hold Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa.
After UN-backed talks collapsed in September, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Hodeidah.
The Saudi-led forces have focused their raids on the city limits and other parts of the surrounding province.
But last week fresh air strikes in the province killed dozens of civilians, the United Nations said, as the Houthis blamed aerial bombardment by the Saudi-led coalition.
The coalition has drawn heavy global criticism for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign in Yemen.
Even as the countries plan an assault, the UN has warned last week that 14 million people in Yemen now face a serious threat of famine. (With inputs from AFP)