Saudi-Led Alliance Gears Up for Battle in Key Yemeni Port City

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

Saudi-Led Alliance Gears up for Assault on Key Yemeni Port City

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began an assault Wednesday morning on Hodeida.

Al-Maliki explained that the missile was heading towards Jazan and was deliberately launched to target civilian and populated areas.

Yemen's exiled government says their forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault on Hodeida only after "exhausting all peaceful and political means".

Launching ballistic missiles towards densely populated cities and villages breaches the global humanitarian law, he added. Some 70 per cent of Yemen's food enters via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

The president of Yemen Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi
The president of Yemen Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

Meanwhile, diplomats in the region told The New York Times that "only pressure from Washington, which sells tens of millions of dollars of weapons to the United Arab Emirates and to Saudi Arabia every year, could stop the assault".

The war pits the Houthis against the Western-backed Sunni Muslim states, which intervened in 2015 to restore the exiled government and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as expansionist aims Iran.

Yemen has been devastated by civil war, with the Houthi movement trying to take control of the country and forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

Although the Trump administration has developed close ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, "many members of Congress and global diplomats blame the two countries for exacerbating what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with indiscriminate attacks that have been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths", adds the newspaper.

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Saudi-owned satellite news channels have announced the start of the Saudi-led coalition's assault on Hodeida.

"We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hodeida that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties", said Martin Griffiths in a statement.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the current council president, told reporters Wednesday that the United Kingdom asked for the meeting.

"We hear sounds of explosions".

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Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier told French newspaper Le Figaro the deadline for a withdraw from Hodeida by Shiite rebels known as Houthis expired early Wednesday morning. 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 UN on Monday withdrew all of its global staff from Hodeida ahead of the impending assault, warning that any offensive would put millions of lives at risk. It says the lives of 250,000 residents are threatened.

Hodeida is a lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population and aid agencies earlier this week had warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the attack went ahead.

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