Saudi coalition strikes kill 250 Houthi rebels in heavy fighting

Saudi coalition strikes kill 250 Houthi rebels in heavy fighting

Saudi coalition strikes kill 250 Houthi rebels in heavy fighting

The fear is that a protracted fight could force a shutdown of Hodeida's port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation.

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

In reality, families in Hudaydah are already starving and desperately relying on humanitarian aid.

Responding to the early stages of the attack-which began with an estimated 30 Saudi airstrikes within half an hour, guided by USA military intelligence-Win Without War wrote on Twitter that the attack is "a dark moment of shame for the United States". The port remains crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine.

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Hodeidah, Yemen's biggest Red Sea port and the only one under Houthi control, serves as the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, which lives in Houthi territory. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorised to brief journalists.

Yemen's exiled government "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida", it said in a statement.

Boys hold posters with crossed-out pictures of President Trump during an April march against plans by the Arab coalition to attack Hodeidah, Yemen.

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Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi's brother and 16 more senior members of the rebel movement may have been killed when the Saudi-led coalition struck their meeting ground in the militia-controlled port of Hodeidah in western Yemen, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media outlet reported on Wednesday. Houthi forces have fired such missiles at ships previously. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.

Map locates Hodeida, Yemen, where Saudi-led forces began assault.

The Red Sea port is the only port under Houthi control, situated about 150km southwest of the capital, Sanaa.

The United Nations pulled all of its global staff out of Hodeidah on Monday.

The Houthi official responsible for foreign affairs, Hisham Sharaf, said the advance was a military escalation aimed at hampering United Nations efforts, Houthi-run media said.

Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster.

The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday for all sides to protect civilians.

The UN Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Thursday - at the request of Britain - over the attack on Hodeida, diplomats said.

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The UN human rights office OHCHR estimates that at least 6,439 civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 injured since Saudi-backed forces began air strikes in Yemen in 2015.

The incident occurred as Saudi-led coalition forces were making an amphibious assault near the city, part of an ongoing blitz to clear Houthi rebels from the area that has included past amphibious landings.

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle in Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. "Seven million people are completely relying every month on food and more than seven million on other assistance, from humanitarian organizations".

The UN says some 600,000 people live in and around Hodeida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the USA said the attack would relieve Yemen's humanitarian crisis and ensure security for shipping in the Red Sea. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard.

"We are concerned that pending military operations by the United Arab Emirates and its Yemeni partners will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by interrupting delivery of humanitarian aid and damaging critical infrastructure", the senators wrote.

The new United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted that he was "extremely concerned" by the violence, calling on all parties to exercise restraint. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any talks.

Washington had also cautioned against the assault.

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