Yemen's Hudaida offensive: United Nations warns of a catastrophe

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The government has spent much of its time in neighbouring Saudi Arabia since Houthi rebels seized control of Sanaa and other areas in the north-west of the country in late 2014. Martin Griffiths, the U.N.'s beleaguered special envoy, has been working fitfully to bring the various factions to the table. "I can not overemphasize that there is no military solution to the conflict".

"The coalition and Houthi forces, now fighting for Hodeida, have atrocious records abiding by the laws of war", said HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson.

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

"I urge all parties to the conflict to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and take active steps to respect global humanitarian law", David Beasleye, executive director of the UN's World Food Programme, said in a statement.

Mr Griffiths is expected to brief the council on Monday, including on his proposals to restart negotiations to restore peace.

Russian Ambassador VassilyNebenzia, who holds the council presidency, said, that during a closed-door meeting, members of the Security Council expressed their "deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation".

Pro-Houthi policemen control vehicles at a checkpoint on a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen June 14, 2018.

The missile, fired towards Khamis Mushayt city and targeting civilian areas, was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi Royal Air Defense Forces.

Saudi Arabia with other Arab countries intervened militarily and began pounding the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa in March 2015 in response to an official public request from Hadi to protect Yemen and roll back Iran's influence.

"We are there and delivering, we are not leaving Hodeidah", U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told media. The siege started on Wednesday despite United Nations warnings that it could lead to significant civilian casualties.

"We are at a crossroads in the conflict in Yemen", he said.

"The situation is dire and we don't know how it will end", Khadija, a teacher in Hodeidah, told Reuters.

The Saudi-led coalition is trying to retake the port from Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

The assault is a dramatic gamble by the Arab states, who insist that they can swiftly capture the port without a major disruption to aid supplies for a country already experiencing the world's most pressing humanitarian crisis.

The U.S. has rejected three separate requests from the United Arab Emirates for military assistance in the Saudi-led coalition attack on the Yemeni port of Hodeida, a senior UAE official said Thursday.

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Houthi spokesmen, for their part, have yet to comment on the army's claims.

He claimed that rebel forces hit a UAE warship near Hodeida with two missiles. Security analysts and aid agencies fear that a protracted siege of Hodeida may only deepen Yemen's misery.

The council did not call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida.

A fresh Saudi airstrike on Yemeni city of Sa'ada has killed seven civilians including a woman.

This week, Yemen's already-brutal civil war may be entering an even deadlier and more worrying phase. "Villagers have often slipped out of their homes under the cover of darkness to avoid rebels who have been preventing people from fleeing and pressing children to take up arms". He also said the members are calling for the port in Hodeidah to be kept open.

Fighting continued to rage on the outskirts of Yemen's largest port, Hudaida, near the city's airport while the United Nations made a desperate plea for both sides to exercise restraint.

As of Thursday afternoon, no attacks had been reported within the city itself, according to Norwegian aid group NRC, despite the overhead presence of fighter jets.

At the same time, the United Nations says 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid and the number at risk of starvation could more than double to more than 18 million by year-end unless access improves.

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.

Al-Zaabi declined to offer further specifics about the soldiers' deaths.

A top Emirati official says a Saudi-led campaign to retake Yemen's port city of Hodeida "means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun".

On Thursday, authorities at Hodeida port said the Red Sea lifeline remained open to shipping.

But if the worst fears of aid workers are realized and a bloody siege grips Hodeida, it's likely that lawmakers in Congress, as well as foreign governments elsewhere, may force the White House to account for its role in the war.

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

It was the second day of an offensive to capture the strategic harbour which is the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of starvation.