Published: Mon, June 18, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

United Nations appeals for key ports to be kept open in Yemen conflict

United Nations appeals for key ports to be kept open in Yemen conflict

On Wednesday, the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched an air and ground offensive on Hudaida, Yemen's third largest city, in the biggest battle in the three-year war between the coalition and Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when the Houthis - from their historical stronghold in the northern Saada province - overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

SABA reported late Wednesday the forces captured the town of Nakhilia in the district of ad-Durayhimi about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of Hodeida International Airport.

The council added: "People in the governorate have reported heavy airstrikes along coastal areas and roads in districts south of Hodeida city".

The rejected requests were for aerial satellite imagery, other surveillance and reconnaissance, and minesweeping, said the official, who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

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

In addition to the UAE ship getting hit, at least several dozen fighters from both sides have been killed, civilians in Hodeidah are reportedly fleeing, the coalition has conducted dozens of airstrikes, and the Houthis have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia.

Late Thursday, Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany told a group of United Nations reporters in NY that military operations by the Saudi-led coalition are not taking place near the port but in an area close to the airport.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel aired footage it described as being from near Hodeida showing a burned-out truck, corpses of irregular fighters and a damaged Emirati armoured vehicle.

The United Nations has warned that the military operation could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions of people in Yemen who are on the brink of starvation.

The United Arab Emirates, a driving force in the coalition, said four of its troops were killed on the first day of the offensive.

About 600,000 people live in and around Hudaida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault, the United Nations has warned.

However, the United Nations has not been able to determine when the missiles, components or related technology were transferred from Iran and if they violated U.N. restrictions, Guterres said in a biannual report on the implementation of U.N. sanctions on Iran.

Yemeni pro-government forces led by Emirati troops advanced to within metres of Hodeidah airport on Friday, Yemeni military officials said. Over 70 percent of Yemen's imports go through Hodeida.

"It is time for the Security Council to call for an immediate freeze of the military attack on Hodeida", said Swedish Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau in a statement ahead of the meeting.

In the face of worldwide concerns over the humanitarian situation, the UAE said on Friday that it would begin sending aid by air and sea to Hodeida, the state-run WAM news agency said.

The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and missiles from Iran.

For its part, the Saudi-led coalition says it had no choice but to launch the assault as the port provided millions of dollars for the Houthis through customs controls.

The call from Human Rights Watch comes as a Saudi-led coalition tries to retake the port city of Hodeida from Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Saudi Arabia and UAE government have announced a "multi-faceted plan" to protect civilians in Hodeida, including establishing routes for food, medical supplies and oil shipments from Saudi Arabia's southern city of Jizan and the UAE's capital, Abu Dhabi.

With logistical support from the U.S., the Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out attacks inside Yemen since March 2015, killing at least 10,000 people, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

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