ADEN - The Saudi-led coalition has massed thousands of troops near Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, local military sources said on Wednesday, in a move to pressure Iranian-aligned Houthi insurgents to return to U.N.-sponsored peace talks.
The United States and Britain have called for an end to the 3-1/2-year war that has driven impoverished Yemen to the verge of famine, raising pressure on Saudi Arabia as it faces a global outcry over the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
The military alliance of Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has deployed around 30,000 forces south of Houthi-held Hodeidah and near its eastern entrance, pro-coalition Yemeni military sources told Reuters.
“Thousands of Yemeni soldiers trained by the coalition have been sent to the outskirts of Hodeidah in addition to modern weaponry including armored vehicles and tanks...in preparation for a big operation in coming days,” said one source.
Residents told Reuters that the Houthis had also deployed forces in the center of Hodeidah city, at the port and in southern neighborhoods in anticipation of an onslaught.
The coalition and the Houthis have not commented on the military movements.
The U.N. special envoy to Yemen is trying to salvage peace talks that collapsed in September, raising the risk of a renewed assault on the Red Sea city, the country’s main port and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis reliant on humanitarian aid.
Envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed a call by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday for a cessation of hostilities ahead of U.N.-led negotiations scheduled to begin next month.