Saudi envoy: Hodeidah's liberation will replenish major lifeline for Yemenis

  • Saudi envoy: Hodeidah's liberation will replenish major lifeline for Yemenis

Saudi envoy: Hodeidah's liberation will replenish major lifeline for Yemenis

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their worldwide staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumored assault.

The Arab states' aim is to box in the Houthis in Sanaa, cut their supply lines and force them to the negotiating table. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.

The Hudaida port is crucial for the flow of food supplies into a country that is on the brink of starvation.

For a little more than three years, Yemen has been locked in a seemingly intractable civil war that has killed almost 10,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of starvation.

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.

The UN says some 600,000 people live in and around Hudaida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organization.

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.

"Parties to the conflict must now prepare to bear responsibility for any violations of International Humanitarian Law, particularly the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructures such as medical facilities, schools and the port facilities, for which the U.N. Security Council must ensure accountability".

In Geneva, ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said that the assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen", where water and electricity networks are vital to the civilian population's survival.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators including leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to express their "grave alarm" about circumstances in Hodeida.

Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the USA, said addressing the humanitarian situation effectively "requires liberating Yemen from the control of Houthi militias" which he said disrupt the flow and distribution of humanitarian supplies.

It wasn't immediately clear what specific American support the coalition was receiving Wednesday.

The war pits the Houthis against the Western-backed Sunni Muslim states, which intervened in 2015 to restore the exiled government and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as expansionist aims of their Shi'ite Muslim foe Iran.

Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by foreign and Yemeni troops massed south of the port of Hodeidah in operation "Golden Victory".

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

The assault comes following the expiry of a deadline set by the UAE for the Houthis, who hold Sanaa, to hand over the port that has been under their control for years.

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities - accusations denied by the group and Tehran.