Saudis Announce Start of Attack on Key Yemen Aid Port

Saudis Announce Start of Attack on Key Yemen Aid Port

A Saudi-led alliance of Arab states launched an attack on Yemen's main port city on Wednesday in the largest battle of the war, aiming to bring the ruling Houthi movement to its knees at the risk of worsening the world's biggest humanitarian crisis.

Social media users shared video of what appeared to be a convoy of vehicles approaching the crucial port city early Wednesday morning.

Hodeidah is now home to around 600,000 civilians, and around 80 percent of all humanitarian aid that flows into Yemen arrives at the city's port, which is now controlled by Houthi rebels.

"If there is a viable transition to a legitimate presence in Hodeidah this will alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and facilitate the flow of goods and aid into Yemen", Hashimy said in a briefing.

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.

Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid Bin Salman on Wednesday said the Houthi militia in Yemen have attacked commercial and military ships, including ships belonging to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US, using advanced anti-shipping systems smuggled into Yemen.

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".

Yemeni officials said government forces had headed to the eastern coast, aiming to cut off a rebel supply line between Hodeidah and the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.

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

The US also helps the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with "limited intelligence sharing", aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise, Major Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesperson, previously told Business Insider.

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UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday he was "deeply concerned" by reports that Houthi rebels in Hodeidah were forcing civil servants and civilians to pick up arms.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their global staff from Hudaida ahead of the expected assault.

A draft for a United Nations peace plan for Yemen exclusively seen by Reuters calls on the Houthi movement to give up its ballistic missiles in return for an end to a bombing campaign from a Saudi-led coalition.

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.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said that UN envoy Martin Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation. 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.

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

"Under global humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen.

He said "aid operations will be severely challenged in the event of sustained fighting in densely populated urban areas" and stressed that people trying to flee conflict areas "must be allowed to do so without any hindrance".

The alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as the expansionist aims of their Shi'ite foe, Iran.

The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt is against corruption and defending Yemen from invaders.

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