Yemeni officials say a massive Saudi push against Hudaydah on the west coast of Yemen has been defeated, with a number of Sudanese mercenaries killed or captured.
Based on reports, fighting reached residential streets on Sunday, with locals and Houthi fighters mounting fierce resistance to the invaders.
Medics and military sources say more than 60 combatants have been killed on both sides over the past 24 hours.
A source with the Saudi-led militants was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that the toll included more than 40 Houthi fighters and about 20 loyalists to the former Yemeni regime.
The invaders have been pushing to enter the strategic port city since 10 days ago, trying to advance on Hudaydah’s docks which are the lifeline for vital humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deployed thousands of additional troops after seeing their campaign launched in June to seize Hudaydah thwarted by Houthi fighters and their allies in the Yemeni army.
On Saturday, reports suggested the invaders had seized the main hospital in the city. The invading forces also saw the Jabaliyah and Matineh areas in Hudaydah retaken by the city’s protectors.
According to AFP, Hudaydah fighters have put up fierce resistance to the Saudi push towards the city’s vital docks, which are the point of entry for 80 percent of Yemen’s commercial imports and nearly all UN-supervised humanitarian aid.
The recapture of Jabaliyah cut supply lines to the invaders, drawing praise from Sana’a-based Yemeni Defense Minister Major General Mohamed Nasser al-Atefi.
“The aggressors were defeated with all their power and equipment,” he said in remarks aired on al-Masirah TV as he praised “the children of Tihamah,” referring to the general area in Yemen’s west coast.
“The children of Tihamah proved to the Yemeni nation that they are ready to sacrifice their lives in defending the west coast. Their cooperation and solidarity with the army and the Popular Committees defeated the aggressors’ advance,” he said.
The Popular Committees is referred to a coalition of Houthi fighters and their allies in the Yemeni army who have been resisting the Saudi invasion since 2015.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam referred to the deaths of several Sudanese mercenaries in Hudaydah, saying they were the “victims of their government being on the payroll in a cruel and senseless war.”
“With all respect for the Sudanese nation, we hope the Sudanese regime will change its position regarding its participation in the aggression against Yemen. The Sudanese government will achieve nothing but defeat and destruction from this futile war,” he added.
Abdul-Salam warned on Friday that Yemen would turn into a “graveyard” for the invaders.
A senior Houthi official says Yemen will turn into a “graveyard” for aggressors as Saudi-backed militants and mercenaries continue with a fresh push to occupy Hudaydah.
On Saturday, fighting raged in Hudaydah’s east as Saudi militants and mercenaries backed by airstrikes and helicopters sought to push deeper into the city. Militants said the battles were turning into street fighting.
A Hudaydah resident, identified as Lubna, told AFP that “the noise of Apache helicopters, artillery and gunfire” was incessant. The protectors of the city, she said, were using artillery to pound the invaders.
The intensified battle for Hudaydah comes despite Pentagon chief James Mattis calling last month for a ceasefire and negotiations between Yemen’s warring parties within 30 days.
Head of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Friday that the escalating offensive in Hudaydah showed Mattis’s ceasefire call was “nothing but empty talk.”
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said on Saturday that calls from the United States, Europe and the UN for a ceasefire in Yemen “were good to hear” but could also be a trick aimed at wasting time.
“I say to our brothers there: Be patient, be steadfast … You are closer to victory than at any previous time,” he said in a televised speech in southern Beirut.
The US and Saudi Arabia said they had agreed to end US refueling of Saudi aircraft bombing Yemen but several officials underlined that American training and military assistance will continue.
Save the Children’s field coordinator Mariam Aldogani, however, spoke of intense Saudi airstrikes in Hudaydah, with over 15 raids in the space of just 30 minutes. “This is the worst time for Hudaydah children,” she said.