Published: Mon, June 18, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Arab forces seize entrance to airport in Yemen's main port city

Arab forces seize entrance to airport in Yemen's main port city

Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi positions in Yemen's Hodeidah for a second day on Thursday, as a Saudi-led alliance tried to seize the main port in the largest battle of a war that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi military spokesman, Col Turki al-Maliki, said the coalition plan was to take control of the airport, seaport and the route leading to the capital, Sanaa, but not to engage in urban warfare.

"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.

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

The United States rejected a UAE request for intelligence, minesweeping and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets for the military operation in Yemen's Hodeidah, a UAE official said on Thursday.

"Depriving the Houthis of their control of Hodeidah port, at the Yemeni government's request, means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun".

On the same vein, the Joint Yemeni Resistance forces are combing pockets of the militia in liberated areas in Hodeidah and cleared mines and unexploded ordnance planted arbitrarily by the rebels in a bid to hamper progress of the resistance.

But the U.N. chief said in the report to the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that the United Nations has been unable to determine whether the missile parts and technology were transferred from Iran after January 16, 2016, when U.N. restrictions came into force. Obaid Salem al-Zaabi told a news conference.

Yesterday, authorities at Hodeida port said the Red Sea lifeline remained open to shipping. The Arab states have been fighting since 2015 to unseat them, restore an exiled Saudi-backed government and halt what they see as Iranian expansionism.

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Contradicting stances by the United Nations towards Yemen's Hodeidah
But they accused the Houthis of planting mines that could prolong efforts to bring in aid after the port's capture. It was not clear at the moment what kind of concrete support Washington offered to the operation on Wednesday.

Almost 40 people have been killed in fighting outside Yemen's Hudaydah port, medical sources say.

On Monday, the Security Council said it supported Griffiths' diplomatic efforts but did not call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida.

The violence has devastated Yemen's infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the United Nations to describe the situation as one of "the worst humanitarian disasters in modern times". "If we can't provide what they need, they're going to be in awful trouble", Grande said.

Saudi Arabia began bombing Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government in March 2015. Currently, 8 million of Yemen's 28 million people are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations and aid agencies.

But while the request for USA military assistance was denied, the Emirati official said the Trump administration has publicly and privately said it supports the operation, as long as the coalition coordinates with the United Nations, takes efforts to protect civilians and continues to deliver humanitarian aid.

In a press statement after an emergency closed-door meeting, the council expressed "deep concerns about the risks to the humanitarian situation" following the launch of an offensive on Hodeida by the Saudi-led coalition.

Council members "reiterated their call for the ports of Hodeida and Saleef to be kept open", said Nebenzia.

"We are facing a small, fanatical group of hardened fighters armed by Iran", Ms Nusseibeh told a press briefing at the UN that was also attended by Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah Al Mouallimi, the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashimy and the Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani. The rebels have been raining ballistic missiles down on Saudi cities from across the border. United Nations officials, who administer a weapons-inspection program at the port, are not convinced by arguments that the port has been used to smuggle Iranian weaponry to the Houthis.

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