Air strikes target Yemen rebel positions in port offensive

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

Despite the fighting, the United Nations kept up its aid supplies. He added that "Iran-backed Houthi militia have launched repeated attacks on commercial and military ships belonging to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the U.S.".

The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement.

On Monday, the UN Security Council said it supported Griffiths' diplomatic efforts but did not specifically call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorised to brief journalists.

"The liberation of the province of Hodeidah from the grip of the. militias, will be the beginning of the complete victory for the liberation of all the Yemeni lands", Yemen's government in exile said in a statement.

"The @WSJ reports the Trump Administration is supporting the brazen UAE military offensive on Hodeidah in Yemen", Lieu tweeted after the hearing.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel later acknowledged the offensive, claiming rebel forces hit a Saudi coalition ship near Hodeida with two missiles.

For the last three years the Saudi-led coalition hasn't made any major advances.

Yemen's internationally recognized government earlier said negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over. Houthi rebels are a Zaydi Shiite religious minority who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and now control a significant amount of territory in western Yemen. The port is the lifeline to much-needed supplies of food and other life-saving resources and any attack would jeopardize the ability of this country to feed itself.

The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from bringing in missiles. The work in the port is normal.

"The assault on Hodeidah could have a devastating impact for hundreds of thousands of civilians - not just in the city but throughout Yemen. The population has already been weakened to extreme levels", he added.

Al Arabiya TV station released new footage of the arrival of new military reinforcement near Hodeidah, including what it said around 1,000 military armoured vehicles to back the push on the city.

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More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Khalid bin Salman, posted on Twitter on Tuesday that the Coalition's operations to "liberate" Hodiedah were "part of the Coalition's unwavering commitment to support the people of Yemen against the tyranny imposed by Iranian-backed militias that are spreading chaos and destruction in Yemen".

The coalition has blocked most ports, letting supplies into Hodeida in coordination with the UN. "The most likely outcome" it said, was "prolonged and destructive fighting".

Global aid groups cautioned the threat of a major humanitarian catastrophe was growing as fighting drew closer to Hodeida, with the United Nations estimating some 600,000 people live in and around the city.

Yemeni officials say the battles are centered in and around the ad-Durayhimi district.

"Today I heard warplanes hovering and the sounds of explosions", a 20-year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told Al Jazeera.

It would be the first time since the foreign armies joined the war in 2015 on behalf of Yemen's exiled government that they have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city.

Aid workers had similar worries.

In the morning, the residents reported loud explosions that rocking the whole city. "We thought it could not get any worse, but unfortunately we were wrong".

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the waters off Hodeidah, coalition spokesman Maliki told Saudi state media.

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