"The port of Hodeida is a launching pad for terrorist operations threatening navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait," the Saudi-led coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said late Wednesday, commenting on the rebels' threats to cut off the shipping traffic unless the coalition halts the blockade of Yemen.
The ground fighting in the area of the port city of Hodeida has recently increased as the coalition forces, supporting President Hadi's forces, were pushing the rebels towards the city as part of an operation to recapture it.
The Houthi rebels gained control of the strategic port of Al Hodeida, from which Yemen receives about 80 percent of food imports in September 2014. The harbor is also one of a string shipping entry points in the vital route connecting the Middle East with Europe through the Suez Canal.
The Saudi-led coalition had stiffened the blockade of Yemen in November 2017, after Houthi rebels fired a missile into the country's international airport. The attack, however, was intercepted.
Yemen has been engulfed in a violent conflict between the government headed by President Hadi and the Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah. The situation in the country remains aggravated by the severe need of immediate humanitarian aid, which could become even worse if the port is closed.