Saudi-led coalition continues Hodeidah assault before United Nations meeting

Saudi-led coalition continues Hodeidah assault before United Nations meeting

Saudi-led coalition continues Hodeidah assault before United Nations meeting

"Our destiny and that of Yemen will continue to be one, and our shared pain and bloodshed will draw us closer", the UAE strongman told Hadi, Yemen's state news agency Saba reported.

Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the USA, 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.

Four Emirati soldiers have been killed in the Saudi-led operation to retake Yemen's port city of Hodeida from Shiite Houthi rebels.

A Yemeni anti-Houthi military official said the alliance had brought to bear a 21,000-strong force. The United States Navy's 5th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, referred questions to the Pentagon, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

They say a network of minefields in the rebel-held areas has hindered the advance of government forces.

It's ironic that Saudi Arabia, which presents itself as the guardian of Islam's two holiest mosques, launches such an attack during Ramadan, a Muslim holy month during which the faithful are enjoined from engaging in war. The International Crisis Group warned that a battle in Hodeida would "leave millions of Yemenis without food, fuel and other vital supplies".

"Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes", Jolien Veldwijk-acting country director for the humanitarian group CARE, which is still operating in Yemen-told Reuters on Wednesday as the US-backed Saudi assault on Hodeida began.

The Arab states hope for a swift victory that would force the Iran-aligned Houthis to negotiate.

More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

October 2016: An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hits a crowded funeral in Sanaa, killing at least 140 mourners. Meanwhile, the U.N. and Western nations say Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons from assault rifles up to the ballistic missiles they have fired deep into Saudi Arabia, including at the capital, Riyadh.

The Red Sea port of Hodeida is the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of starvation.

The Yemeni army and resistance forces, aided by the Arab coalition, officially launched the battle to liberate the city and port of Hodeidah, west of Yemen, on Wednesday at dawn after the Houthis rejected peaceful solutions.

June 2015: A US airstrike kills al-Qaida's number 2, the head of its Yemeni branch, Nasir al-Wahishi.

The United Nations fears the assault could drastically worsen already desperate conditions in the region's poorest country. "Right now, nothing is more important", said Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, who is in Sanaa.

Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to negotiate on keeping Hudaida open and urged all sides to exercise restraint. 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.

The biggest battle in a three-year war, which has already created the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, centers on Hodeidah, the main route for food and aid to reach most Yemenis, 8.4 million of whom are on the verge of starvation. "The British told us a week ago that the Emiratis and the Saudis had told them they would not enter the battle of Hodeidah without their agreement and assistance", he said.

The Arab states have been fighting since 2015 to unseat them, restore an exiled Saudi-backed government and halt what they see as Iranian expansionism.

Coalition warplanes and warships were carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said in a statement issued by its media office.

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