Civilians flee bombardment as Saudi-led coalition pounds Yemen port

Civilians flee bombardment as Saudi-led coalition pounds Yemen port

Civilians flee bombardment as Saudi-led coalition pounds Yemen port

On Thursday, a senior UAE official said the Trump administration has rejected requests for military assistance in the coalition attack on Hodeida.

Arab coalition forces had fought their way to the outskirts of the airport in Yemen's main port city on Friday, in the biggest battle of a three-year war pitting it against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The Saudi-led coalition launched the assault on Hodeida on Wednesday, raising worries that it could worsen Yemen's humanitarian disaster and trigger prolonged fighting in the streets.

The strike also killed four UAE soldiers, but the status of the ship was not available, the source said.

But the council brushed aside a call by Sweden, a non-permanent member, for a freeze to the military operation to allow time for talks on a rebel withdrawal from the Red Sea port.

The Conflict Armament Research Center said earlier that the bombs are similar to those used by Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and by insurgents in Iraq and Bahrain, suggesting an Iranian role in their manufacture.

An worldwide rights group has urged the United Nations Security Council to warn parties to the Yemen war that they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid. "We hope for a rapid conclusion", she said, "but we are facing a small, fanatical group of fighters armed by Iran".

A report by the Saudi-owned satellite network Al Arabiya has quoted commander Abu Zarah al-Mahrami as saying government forces are "within meters" of the airport.

"The liberation of Hodeidah is the cornerstone of overthrowing the financial empire built by Houthis", said Ibrahim, another Sanaa citizen.

The Saudi-led coalition says that it has a five-point plan to avoid any disruption to the relief effort, including a preplanned logistics operation.

But the government says the port is also used by opposition forces to bring in supplies.

On Thursday, coalition troops took the town of Nakhila in Yemen's ad-Durayhimi district, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Hodeida International Airport, according to Yemen's government-run SABA news agency.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015 and has faced criticism for a campaign of airstrikes killing civilians and destroying hospitals and markets.

View of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, June 14, 2018.

The U.N. and Western nations say Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons, from assault rifles to the ballistic missiles they have fired deep into Saudi Arabia, including at the capital, Riyadh.

Hodeida is a lifeline for the poverty-stricken country, which imports 90 percent of its food, fuel and medicines, 70 percent of which come through the city's port.

Human Rights Watch urged the U.N. Security Council on Friday to warn the warring parties that they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid.

Yemeni officials said dozens of pro-government fighters have been killed since the assault began Wednesday, mainly from land mines and roadside bombs disguised as rocks or sacks of wheat.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in Yemen in 2015 to push back the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government to power after the Houthis ousted it from swathes of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Capturing Hodeidah, the Houthis' only port, would give the coalition the upper hand in the war, in which neither side has made much progress for years.

The UN Security Council met in a closed-door session on Thursday amid fears that the fighting could result in thousands of civilian casualties and trigger a wider humanitarian crisis.

About 600,000 people live in and around Hudaida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault, the United Nations has warned.

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