Yemen: UN calls all fighting sides to keep Hudaidah port open

Yemeni pro-government forces flash the victory gesture as they arrive in Al Durayhimi district about nine kilometres south of Hodeidah international airport

Yemeni pro-government forces flash the victory gesture as they arrive in Al Durayhimi district about nine kilometres south of Hodeidah international airport

The council rejected Swedish proposal for a freeze to the military operation to allow time for talks on Houthi'swithdrawal from the Red Sea port city.

Arab troops appeared poised to enter the airport of Yemen's main port, Hodeidah, on Friday as a Saudi-led alliance prepared to seize the city in the biggest battle of a three-year war.

The bulk of Yemen's food and aid enters through Hodeidah, raising fears that the military operation to retake the port could worsen the humanitarian crisis in the country, where more than 8 million people are facing starvation.

Seizing the port "means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun", he said in a post on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia - Yemen's northern neighbor and Iran's principal rival in the region - soon intervened with a coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates and gets logistical support from the US, seeking to reinstate Yemen's government.

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the waters off Hodeida, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state media.

An worldwide rights group has urged the United Nations Security Council to warn parties to the Yemen war that they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid. The port of Hodeida is a vital gateway to getting food and other aid to a significant number of these people.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the president of the Security Council for June, said after the meeting that the Council members are deeply concerned about the humanitarian risks of the situation.

The assault has sparked fears for the area's 600,000 residents, with aid and rights groups warning it could spell disaster across Yemen, a country already teetering on the brink of starvation.

Yemeni pro-government forces led by Emirati troops advanced to within metres of Hodeidah airport on Friday, Yemeni military officials said.

The Saudi-led coalition says that it has a five-point plan to avoid any disruption to the relief effort, including a preplanned logistics operation.

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"The fighting is getting close to the al-Manzar area near the airport and people are fleeing in fear", said Mohammed Abdullah, who works for the city's Houthi administration.

But a Huthi attack some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the city provided a diversion, cutting loyalist forces off from the government-held ports of Khokha and Mokha, sparking fresh clashes along the coastline.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied 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.

"Secretary of Defense James Mattis strongly supports the efforts of the new United Nations special envoy, Martin Griffiths, to bring all sides of the conflict to the negotiating table", Rankine-Galloway, the Pentagon spokesman, told CNN.

The Saudi-led coalition launched the assault on Hodeida on Wednesday, raising warnings from aid agencies that Yemen's humanitarian disaster could deepen and that the offensive could set off prolonged street-by-street battles, inflicting heavy casualties. But the government says the port is also used by opposition forces to bring in supplies.

Yemen's internationally-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi landed in the port city of Aden on Thursday, an airport source told Xinhua, coming back from Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh after one year of his leaving the country.

Nine pro-government troops were killed in the same area, the medics said.

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. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday that the USA expressed its "desire to address [UAE] security concerns" in Yemen, so long as humanitarian aid efforts are preserved.

Hodeida, home to almost 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, which is under Houthi control.

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