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Troops backed by a Saudi led coalition, stormed the airport in Hodeidah on Tuesday, in what could be a decisive moment in the most crucial battle yet in Yemen's war. Crucial, because as well as being the main supply line for the Iran-aligned Houthis. Yemen's main port city is also a lifeline for civilians, 8.4 million of whom are on the verge of starvation.
The U.N. fears this offensive will worsen what is already the world's more urgent humanitarian crisis. Houthis media said 40 air strikes hit the airport on Tuesday. And UAE state media claimed large swathes of the facility had been taken by coalition forces.
deidah residents said fighting continued to rage on a road leading to the city center, and its street battles in the urban area that the western-backed coalition says it wants to avoid.
Its plan is to take the airport and port and allow the Houthis to retreat to their stronghold in the capital, Sana'a. But the Houthis are well dug in.>> The Saudis have really struggled to gain any significant amount of territory in three years of this war.>> Reuters Tom Finn explains why Hodeidah could be facing a protracted conflict.
>> The Houthis control most of northern Yemen, and have done since the war started. So there's no saying whether this will be a quick decisive battle, or something that turns into a much more protracted and sustained fight. There's a real risk that this could turn into urban warfare.
>> The U.N. estimates 600,000 people live in Hodeida. And says in a worst case scenario this battle could cost 250,000 lives.
e Saudi backed coalition entered this proxy war with Iran in 2015, aiming to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government. The Houthis say they are not puppets of Iran but part of a popular revolt that are protecting Yemen from foreign intervention.