Country Risk

Coalition's failure to secure Mocha coastline indicates limits of planned offensive on Yemen's Hodeidah

18 April 2017
Children gather to receive food aid from an emergency food distribution centre in Sanaa, Yemen, on 13 April 2017. Source: PA

Key Points

  • Houthi resistance in Mocha district is preventing coalition-backed local forces from exploiting their military gains along the southern Red Sea coastline.
  • Capturing the major port city of Hodeidah will be a challenging task. A Hodeidah offensive will cause substantial civilian casualties, severe and widespread damage to property and infrastructure, and exacerbate the already severe risk of famine across north Yemen.
  • Without US combat support, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are unlikely to commit sufficient ground combat forces to reinforce fragmented local forces in a successful offensive on Hodeidah. Consequently, Operation Golden Spear is likely to prove a slow and indecisive operation, unlikely to alter the balance of the conflict.


Pro-government forces backed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have been concentrating north and south of Hodeidah province in anticipation of a planned two-pronged ground offensive on the Houthi-held Red Sea port, the second phase of Operation Golden Spear, which started on 6 January.

On 5 April, Yemeni media reported that pro-government forces had started to concentrate two recently United Arab Emirates-trained armoured brigades in Midi near the border with Saudi Arabia, about 140 km north of Hodeidah, and in Al-Khoukha district, approximately 150 km south of the port city. If true, these forces will have to advance through extensive areas still controlled by Houthi-aligned insurgent forces on the northern and southern approaches to Hodeidah before attempting to capture it. On 5 April, a senior official in the government of President Abdurabu Mansour Hadi stated that the military was ready to launch the offensive on the port town, but was waiting for the command to attack.

An advance on Hodeidah would mark the second phase of Operation Golden Spear, which started on 6 January from the coastal Dhubab district, about 20 km south of Mocha port. Golden Spear's stated objective was to capture Mocha port, secure Yemen's southern coastline, destroy all insurgent military positions there, and ultimately take control of the major port city of Hodeidah and cut off Houthi-aligned forces' access to the Red Sea.

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