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Yemenis flee as Saudi-led coalition pounds Hodeida port

The UK called for a UN security council meeting to be held [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 June, 2018

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The Saudi-led offensive continues in its second day against the Yemeni rebel-held port as aid agency warnings increase.
Yemeni civilians are fleeing Hodeida as the Saudi-led coalition launches a huge bombardment of the rebel-held port, which aid agencies have warned could plunge the country into famine.

Medics reported that the clashes have killed 39 combatants outside the Yemeni port on Thursday.

30 fatalities were from the Houthi rebels and nine pro-government troops were killed two kilometres from Hodeida airport.

The Houthis - who control the Red Sea port city home to 600,000 people - reported, "two enemy airstrikes" on Thursday via their news outlet al-Masirah.

The Saudi-led coalition said that 18 airstrikes had been carried out the previous day on Houthi positions around Hodeida.

The UAE - the driving force behind the coalition's assault on Hodeida - said four of its troops were killed on the first day of the offensive. It did not state when or where the soldiers were killed, but said at least one navy officer was among the dead.

"The forces managed to liberate new strategic areas in al-Duraihimi district and areas adjacent to Hodeida airport after penetrating the Houthi militia's front-lines," the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Thursday.

Before the war, over 70 percent of Yemen's food and fuel imports came through Hodeida, accounting for over 40 percent of the nation's customs income.

The port remains crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine for a nation driven to the brink of famine by the conflict and a Saudi-led blockade.

Authorities at the port said it remained open to ships.

"We still have seven ships in the port. The work in the port is normal. And we have five other ships standing by waiting outside to enter," Port Director Dawood Fadel told AFP.

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

The UN Security Council plans to meet for urgent talks later on Thursday, following the launch of the offensive on the Yemeni port.

The United Nations has raised alarm over the military operation, which could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen who are on the brink of famine.

More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

Aid groups have pulled staff from the town over the deteriorating security situation and warned of catastrophic consequences.

Save the Children on Wednesday said 300,000 children were in the line of fire.

In a statement it said it was "extremely concerned" that the port in Hodeida will be closed and "despite repeated warnings of the devastating impact this will have, a famine is becoming a real possibility, with hundreds of thousands of lives at risk".

Oxfam's Yemen chief, Muhsin Siddiquey, said: "An attack on Hodeida will bring death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach."

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Houthis after they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and restore the internationally recognised government to power.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands wounded in what has been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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