UAE says Yemen's Houthis must evacuate key port city

UAE says Yemen's Houthis must evacuate key port city

At the same time, the Houthis have repeatedly fired artillery at Yemeni cities, missiles at Saudi Arabia (most recently on June 9), been accused of using child soldiers, and more.

Bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador, wrote that Houthi rebels have attacked commercial and military ships, including those belonging to the U.S. He added that the "liberation of Hodaidah" is critical because of the threat Iran-backed Houthis pose to the security of the Red Sea.

Al Hodeidah, the second largest port in the country, is the main conduit for humanitarian supplies into a country teetering on the brink of starvation.

On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition troops launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Hodeidah is the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, who live in Houthi territory.

The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

Yemeni security officials quoted by the Associated Press said that 2,000 troops had crossed the Red Sea from a UAE naval base in Eritrea, with plans to seize the port at Hodeida.

The Trump Administration, which provides military support to the coalition, had asked the Emirates to hold off on beginning an operation until after United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths presented a new plan for jump-starting peace talks.

Aid agencies warned that the crucial battle in the three-year-old conflict could push the Arab world's poorest country into further chaos.

"We condemn to the fullest extent the launch of an attack by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition on Yemen's port city of Hodeida". The United Nations and global aid organizations pulled staff out of the city and surrounding area before the deadline.

"The humanitarian risks inherent in attacking the city have been emphasized numerously in appeals by humanitarians, which have been ignored", he 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", Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the USA continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition.

They said civilian harm and damage to the port were "unacceptable consequences for any responsible member of the community of nations".

The conflict escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states - backed by the US, UK, and France - began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Mr Hadi's government.

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.

The renewed push on Hodeidah comes amid increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and arch-foe Iran after the United States withdrew last month from an global nuclear agreement with Tehran, a move hailed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. UAE forces fight alongside U.S. Special Operations forces in a separate counterterrorism mission in Yemen focused on al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. The accusations are denied by the group and Iran.

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".

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