Saudi-led forces launch biggest assault of Yemen war

Residents of the city collect water from an Oxfam water tank

A United Nations political envoy for Yemen had been shuttling between the Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to try to reach a political solution to avert the assault on Hodeidah.

United Nations resident and humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen Lise Grande, speaking by telephone from Sanaa, said that her office was drawing up options to ensure aid delivery to millions of Yemenis "in case of a possible siege of Hodeidah", including a humanitarian airlift.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched an offensive Wednesday on a key port in Yemen held by rebels, despite global warnings such an assault could be catastrophic.

Yemeni officials say Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have hit most of the Houthi rebel defenses of Hodeida as part of the coalition's assault on the key Red Sea port town.

Fighting raged near Hudaida airport and al-Durayhmi, a rural area 10km south of the city, UAE's WAM news agency said.

The Arab states say they have plans in place to prevent the battle from causing a humanitarian disaster.

Coalition spokespeople said 18 air strikes were fired on the outskirts of Hudaida on Wednesday. It said: "The Emiratis have informed us today that they will now give a three-day grace period for the United Nations (and their partners) to leave the city". The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard in the background.

The mother of two chose to leave her village of Taif a few days ago, "during the last few days of the holy month of Ramadan". Panel advances Fed nominees MORE (R-Tenn) and ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer: Obama "very amenable" to helping Senate Dems in midterms The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? "Some workers have left to their villages for fear of the war", said Mohamed, a Hodeida resident who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals. Those contacted by AFP said Houthi fighters had fanned out across the city. Apart from Hudaida, the Houthis control the capital, Sanaa, and most of the country's populated areas.

Yemen's government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

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The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, the Trump administration has been considering deepening U.S. military involvement in the Saudi bombardment of Yemen, which has pushed eight million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. Yemen is heavily dependent on imported food, fuel and medicine that come through Hodeidah port.

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

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US said the attack would relieve Yemen's humanitarian crisis and ensure security for shipping in the Red Sea.

The humanitarian assistance being sent by global organizations have been looted by the Houthis in control of Hodeida port, while also preventing goods and oil derivatives from entry, causing famine, starvation and poverty inside the province, the report said. The country is nearly entirely dependent on it for vital imports but it has been hijacked by the Houthis since 2015 and used to smuggle arms.

The UAE's Gargash said plans were in place to keep the port operational and urged the worldwide community to pressure the Houthis to evacuate and leave the port intact, without planting mines.

There were even a few scant claims that USA military advisers were on board the coalition warship when it was hit, but Pentagon Spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider that there are no USA military advisers on the ground and he said he hadn't even heard of the ship getting hit.

Ali al-Ahmed, the Emirati Ambassador to Germany, told Reuters there were 60,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid ready on ships and trucks to move into the region once the fighting died down.

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the waters off Hudaida, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state media.

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