After withdrawing its proxies from the western Yemeni province of al-Hudaydah, the Saudi-led coalition is now targeting the Houthis (Ansar Allah) there.
On November 17, the coalition announced that its warplanes had carried out six airstrikes on Houthi forces along the western Yemeni coast.
A week ago, Saudi-backed forces made a surprise withdrawal from the province, abandoning all of their positions in the outskirts of the Houthi-held provincial center and around 100 kilometers of the coastline to the south.
The withdrawal decision led to much criticism from Saudi Arabia’s allies in Yemen. Saudi-backed forces fought for some two months in 2018 to reach al-Hudaydah city only to be stopped by a US-brokered ceasefire agreement. The forces sustained heavy losses while fighting the Houthis back then.
In a statement released on November 16 to justify the decision, the Saudi-led coalition said that all forces withdrawn from al-Hudaydah will be redeployed to support other operations against the Houthis.
“The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition deemed it important that these forces be redeployed and repositioned in order to become more effective and operationally flexible to contribute in the national battle of the Yemeni Army in a manner that guarantees its maneuverability and security in the area of operations,” coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Malki said in the statement.
The spokesman highlighted the Houthis’ repeated violations of the UN-brokered ceasefire and the group’s control over several Red Sea ports, including that of al-Hudaydah, as the main reasons behind the withdrawal decision.
The Houthis have retaken all the positions which were abandoned by Saudi-backed coalition. Clashes are now taking place near the administrative border between al-Hudaydah and the southwestern province of Taiz.
The coalition’s statement and recent airstrikes confirm that Saudi Arabia is working to reduce its involvement in ground operations all over Yemen. The Kingdom and its allies are apparently working to reshape their large-scale intervention into a limited aerial war against the Houthis.