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Coalition battles Houthis to liberate Hodeida

Coalition battles Houthis to liberate Hodeida

The Red Sea port, controlled by Iran-aligned rebels known as Houthis, is the main point of entry for food and medicine in the war-torn country, which is already on the brink of starvation.

In a statement responding to the potentially catastrophic attack on Hodeidah, Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, took aim at both the USA and the United Kingdom for providing crucial political and military support for the Saudi-led assault, arguing that such complicity reveals "the true face of their foreign policy".

Before dawn on Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading towards the rebel-held city, according to videos posted on social media.

"We hear sounds of explosions".

"More than two-thirds of the people of Yemen count on the food that is imported through the port of Hudaida", Veldwijk said.

The fear is that a protracted fight could force a shutdown of Hodeida's port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation.

Large-scale ground operations, supported by the air and naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, began to move in on the city from numerous directions, a military source told the publication.

Yemen's exiled government said in a statement that it "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida", according to The Associated Press.

Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, said addressing the humanitarian situation effectively "requires liberating Yemen from the control of Houthi militias" which he said disrupt the flow and distribution of humanitarian supplies.

Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen June 1, 2018.

The port city, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa.

The UAE warship was hit on Wednesday shortly after Saudi-led troops began a major operation to bring Hudaydah under their control, Abdulsalam Jaber, the spokesman of the national salvation government, said.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the Houthis on Tuesday that the "final hour" is approaching in Hodeidah.

The United Nations and aids groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. The Saudi-led coalition has been criticized for its airstrikes killing civilians.

The Houthi militia has repeatedly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, which the United States and UN experts say are of Iranian origin, a claim Tehran denies.

Martin Griffiths, United Nations special envoy to Yemen, wrote on Wednesday that he is "extremely concerned" with the Saudi-led military escalation and said he is working with both parties to avert further disaster. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the US continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition.

"(He) called for restraint from all the belligerents and to protect civilians", his office said.

Last week, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said the U.S. opposed any effort by the Emirates and Yemeni troops it backs to seize the city.

"It's providing any intel, or anything we can give to show no-fire areas where there are civilians, where there's mosques, hospitals, that sort of thing - (and) aerial refueling, so nobody feels like I've got to drop the bomb and get back now", he said.

Its leader, exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, said his government had proposed compromises but would not let the Houthis hold the Yemeni people "hostage to a prolonged war which the Houthis ignited".

The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt aims to target corruption and defend Yemen from invaders.

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