Why is the Arab coalition’s control of Yemen’s port city Hodeidah important?
Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah has a strategic importance as it is considered the country’s main gateway for humanitarian aid, a militant gateway where Houthis smuggle in weapons, as well as a major passage to the capital of Sanaa.
If the Yemeni armed forces backed by the Arab coalition regain control over the city, then all coastal fronts vital for Houthis armed and logistic supplies will consequently fall, especially given that the Yemeni legitimate government has control over the strategic ports of the coastal city of Midi and al-Mukha.
Hodeidah port is considered the second biggest in the country after Aden port, which is under the control of the legitimate government and where most of humanitarian aid and imports like food and oil come through it.
The coastal city is also considered a hub for business and industrial activities with a population of 2.3 million people, the second most populated city after Taiz.
The control over its port also means the control over economic incomes from customs and tariffs on exported and imported goods.
The port is also considered the major gateway to the Yemeni strategic islands on the red sea – excluding Socotra – like the Hanish Islands, among which Jabal Zuqar is the largest.
The Houthis as well as armed forces loyal to slain former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have no popularity in the Hodeidah governorate which does not belong to the same sect and political orientations of the Houthis.
The Houthis seized control of Hodeidah in October 2014 a month after seizing the capital Sanaa.
Hodeidah: The northern coastal strategic gateway
The port city is used by humanitarian and aid agencies to get in aid to areas under the Houthi army ‘s control. While Houthis obtain weapons through naval supply from Iran. By losing the strategic port, the supply of weapons and ammunition will become very difficult and the Houthis will be confined to closed, landlocked areas.
Iran has provided the Houthi militias with weapons through the port of Hodeidah, through a line extending from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas through Somali ports and small islands, used to stop and transfer arms by small boats to the coasts of Hodeidah. A UN Resolution under the seventh item, prohibits delivering weapons to Yemen.
During the Yemeni war, specifically in 2015, the port of the city, controlled by the Houthis, was bombed by the Saudi-led coalition on August 18. The four cranes were destroyed at the port and several warehouses were damaged.
The coalition confirmed that the port contained a hostile naval base, but humanitarian organizations complained that the naval blockade imposed by coalition forces prevented the arrival of relief to those in need. On November 23, 2017, the authorities allowed the port to reopen for aid flights, in addition to Sanaa international airport.