Yemen soldiers killed fighting Houthis in Al-Hudaydah

18 June, 2018, 15:38 | Author: Donnie King
  • Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah Yemen June 12 2018. Najeeb Almahboobi  EPA

Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi positions in Yemen's Hodeidah for a second day on Thursday, as a Saudi-led alliance tried to seize the main port in the largest battle of a war that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Alliance forces led by Emirati troops have advanced to within metres of the airport, entering the Al Manzar area adjacent to it, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television quoted Yemeni military officials as saying.

The coalition of Arab states has battled with little success for three years to defeat the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, the main port at Hodeidah and most of Yemen's populated areas.

The Huthis suffered 30 fatalities on Thursday in clashes near Hodeida airport south of the city, medical sources told AFP.

Apache attack helicopters bombed a strip of coastal territory near the city's airport, forcing many residents and civilians to flee the port city.

The United Nations has warned the military operation could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions of people in Yemen.

Yemen's foreign minister says military operations by the Saudi-led coalition are not taking place near Yemen's critical port of Hodeida but in an area close to the airport.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have reportedly sent forces to Hodeidah from across Yemen to reinforce their lines.

The latest strike comes as Yemeni pro-government forces are locked in heavy fighting with rebels as they press a Saudi and UAE-backed offensive to retake the key aid hub of Hodeida.

In a statement Saturday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "we stand with our United Nations partners to call on all parties to the conflict to protect the port, and allow its uninterrupted functioning".

Ahmed al-Kawkabani, who leads a force known as the Tohama Brigade, tells The Associated Press on Friday that fighting is ongoing at the town of Dawar-al-Hodeida at the outskirts of the city.

The port is the main lifeline for food aid to a country where 8.4 million people are facing starvation.

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the waters off Hodeida, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state media. "We are not planning to destroy the infrastructure; we are not planning to cause a major humanitarian impact", he said.

The council made the call following United Nations warnings of a looming humanitarian disaster from the assault.

The Houthis, from a Shia minority, deny being Tehran's pawns and say they took power in a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbours.

The Saudi-led coalition said this week that they began their assault on Hodeida on behalf of Mr Hadi's government.

And for now, she said Hodeidah's all-important port - which receives about 80 percent of the country's imports - remains untouched by the bombardment.

The world body said it was still bringing aid: "We are there and delivering, we are not leaving Hodeidah", U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said. The rebels have been raining ballistic missiles down on Saudi cities from across the border.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies - who accuse the Houthis of serving as an Iranian proxy force - launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

An administration official acknowledged that the coalition would like the get more involved militarily in the battle to free the port, but so far that has not happened.

Saudi Arabia - Yemen's northern neighbor and Iran's principal rival in the region - soon intervened with a coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates and gets logistical support from the US, seeking to reinstate Yemen's government. It was not clear what advances, if any, the ground troops backed by the Saudi-led coalition had made in Hodeida, or what the scope of casualties were. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday that the US expressed its "desire to address [UAE] security concerns" in Yemen, so long as humanitarian aid efforts are preserved.


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