Fierce fighting between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and allied Yemeni military forces in the port city of Hudaida shows no sign of slowing down, as the offensive against the Iranian-aligned Houthi militia group enters its second week.
Dubbed Operation Golden Victory, it is the biggest battle by the Saudi-led forces in three years, which began pounding Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthi group took over the capital Sanaa and tried to exert their influence in other parts of the country.
According to Yemeni military sources, the death toll so far is up to 216 fighters, including 33 Houthis and 19 soldiers killed in Tuesday’s battle. No civilian casualties have yet been confirmed.
The fighting also risks escalating the dire humanitarian crisis in the country, where out of a population of 28 million people, eight million are at risk of starvation, and 22 million depend on aid.
Why are Saudis and UAE forces attacking Hudaida?
Hudaida, the country’s fourth largest city, has been under the control of the Houthis since 2014 along with much of northern Yemen and ports along the country’s western coast. The city has two main strategic points: the sea port and its airport.
The port is responsible for delivering 70 percent of Yemen’s imports, mostly humanitarian aid, food and fuel. Yet the Saudis say that the Houthis, who generate $30 million to $40 million a month in revenue from the port, are using it to smuggle in weapons from Iran.
The Saudis and Emiratis want the port to be handed back to Yemen’s government, led by exiled leader Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, or to be placed under UN supervision.
According to Adam Baron, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the battle of Hudaida has been “a long time coming.”
“Ultimately, the coalition views the Houthis’ control of Hu