Group urges UN to warn parties in Yemen war over aid access

Fighting In Yemen Port City Threatens Aid Shipments

Fighting In Yemen Port City Threatens Aid Shipments

Fighters backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushed toward the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Thursday, on the second day of a battle that analysts say could be the bloodiest of the Yemen war.

The United Nations Security Council has called for keeping open the Yemeni port of Hudaydah amid a Saudi-led assault to capture it.

France is studying the possibility of carrying out a minesweeping operation to provide access to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah once an Arab-led coalition has completed its military operations, France's Defence Ministry said on Friday.

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

They struck some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Hodeida, in a diversion from the frontline fighting around the city's disused airport.

Hodeida, home to almost 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, which is under Houthi control.

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

"Depriving the Houthis of their control of Hodeidah port, at the Yemeni government's request, means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun".

The official said that the Trump administration denied the requests within the past 24 hours as a UAE operation to wrest control of the port from Iranian-backed Shiite rebels got underway.

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"The Houthis have gathered a large number of their fighters in the city and on the outskirts", Bassim al-Jenani, a freelance Yemeni journalist, told Middle East Eye.

"Any closure of the port, even for a few days, will have a dramatic impact on the humanitarian operations in the country", the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, told The Associated Press Thursday.

The battle for Hodeidah marks a major milestone in a war that has battered Yemen's civilians for years, since the Iran-backed Houthis overthrew the country's government. "Their use of land and sea mines shows a cruel & callous disregard for Yemeni lives", Gargash said in a tweet.

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva maintained the Saudi-Emirati coalition had no choice but to act.

Sweden had urged the council to call for an immediate freeze to military action on Hodeida, but the council statement made no such call, reflecting divisions among its 15 members.

But in Yemen's protracted civil war, which has killed approximately 10,000 people and led to tens of thousands more deaths from sickness and starvation, global aid agencies are wary of predictions by the Saudis and the Emiratis that they could snatch a quick victory in Hodeida's complex urban environment.

The official said the coalition has rolled out a plan for humanitarian aid, including plans to establish a shipping lane to Hodeidah from Abu Dhabi and Jizan, a southern city in Saudi Arabia.

Debris from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthi group since July 2017 "share key design features with a known type of missile" manufactured by Iran and some of the components were manufactured in Iran, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres wrote in a confidential report to the Security Council. Approximately 80 per cent of the country's humanitarian aid enters though the port. The US has been supplying crucial information to the Saudi-led coalition, as well as refueling their warplanes.

The coalition's blockade and fighting have disrupted other supply lines, causing an economic crisis that makes food too expensive for many to afford. "Further military escalation will have serious consequences on the dire humanitarian situation in the country and will have an impact on my efforts to resume political negotiations to reach an inclusive political settlement to the conflict in Yemen", Griffiths said in a statement earlier this week.

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