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Khokha, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Reinforcements rolled into Yemen's Hodeida yesterday as the army and its regional allies set their sights on the city's port held by rebels who have vowed to fight to the end.

Military sources said the army, backed by troops from the United Arab Emirates, had been sending backup troops to the area ahead of a major offensive to close in on the Red Sea port.

"Our preparations are in their final stages for the advance on the port," a military source told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The Iran-allied Huthi rebels have refused to cede control of Hodeida port, the entry point of three quarters of imports to impoverished Yemen.

The Huthis have controlled the port since 2014, when they drove the government out of the capital and seized much of northern Yemen and a string of Red Sea ports.

On June 13, Yemen's army and its allies launched their offensive to clear Hodeida of the rebels, raising UN concerns for vital aid shipments and food imports through the city's docks.

The pro-government forces announced the capture of the Hodeida airport on Wednesday morning.

The airport had been disused but it housed a major rebel base just inland from the coastal road into the city.

Rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi on Wednesday night called for reinforcements to repel the advance of the UAE-backed government forces, after ongoing fighting left nearly 350 people dead in one week.

ADEN, June 20, 2018 (Reuters) - Fears of a humanitarian crisis in Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah grew as battles spilled into residential districts on Wednesday after Arab coalition forces seized the airport from the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Residents said coalition aircraft were bombing Houthi positions on roads leading to the airport as the group dug in against an onslaught by the Arab alliance to take the city, the Houthis’ main port and the lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told Al Arabiya television in Brussels that the alliance was now destroying Houthi fortifications near the airport and he accused the group of placing tanks inside residential areas.

“We have been stuck in our houses for five days because we are afraid of going out due to the fighting. Our food supplies will run out within a week and there is no water,” Fatima, 56, said, adding that bottled water was very expensive.

The escalation in fighting has forced many to flee their homes and hampered humanitarian agencies, which are concerned about a potential cholera outbreak in the densely populated city as fighting cuts off water supplies.

“People are saying water has been disrupted in parts of Hodeidah already. Some areas even prior to the war were not even connected to the main water supply,” said Saleem Al Shamiri, livelihood coordinator at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“We’ve done some initiatives...to educate people about safe water use as temperatures are rising,” he told Reuters.

He said that while many residents had fled the city, most people in Hodeidah do not have the financial means to leave.

UN officials estimate that in a worst-case scenario the fighting could cost up to 250,000 lives, especially if a cholera epidemic occurs in the widely impoverished region.

The coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to try to roll back Houthi rebels’ lightning capture of the main population centres and reinstate the internationally recognised government.

The coalition launched its offensive on heavily defended Hodeidah a week ago and pledged a swift operation to minimise civilian casualties and avoid disrupting vital aid to millions of Yemenis via the Red Sea port.

“Hodeidah port is operating as normal and the movement of ships is normal,” Malki said. “We have humanitarian and development plans for when we liberate the city.”

The UN World Food Programme said on Tuesday it was hastening to unload three ships at the port that contain enough food for six million people for one month.

Though the coalition pledged to try to avoid battles in densely populated urban neighborhoods, the Houthis were well dug into Hodeidah as it constitutes the key supply line to territory they control, including the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia accuses the Houthis of using Hodeidah port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles targeting Saudi cities. The group and Tehran deny the accusation.

ADEN, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - Backed by the coalition supporting legitimacy in Yemen, Yemeni troops were able to enter the main complex at Hodaida airport, a military source said Tuesday.

The troops stormed the airport after fierce clashes with Houthi militias early in the morning, Al Arabiya al Hadath said.

Houthi militias, however, continue to close major roads, set up barriers and dig trenches in the streets of Hodaida; which are all signs of the group's intention not to peacefully hand over the city in line with an initiative by UN envoy Martin Griffiths to that effect.

 

DUBAI, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - The UAE, a key player in the coalition battling Huthi rebels in Yemen, on Monday warned the insurgents to withdraw unconditionally from the flashpoint port city of Hodeida, after UN peace efforts fizzled.

"There can be no conditions in any offers to withdraw," the United Arab Emirates' minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash told a press conference in Dubai.

"If the rebels wanted to set conditions, they should have thought of that a year ago... Now is not the time to negotiate."

Huthi rebels have controlled Hodeida, a key entry point for desperately-needed aid, since 2014, when they drove the government out of the capital Sanaa and seized large swathes of the country.

Gargash's statement came hours before the UN's top Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, was due to brief the Security Council on his efforts to end the crisis over Hodeida, whose port handles over 70 percent of Yemen's imports.

Gargash said the Saudi and UAE-led offensive aimed "to help the UN envoy in his last chance to convince the Huthis to withdraw unconditionally from the city and avoid any confrontation."

NEW YORK, June 18, 2018 (MENA) - The UN Security Council (UNSC) will convene a closed meeting later Monday to discuss developments in Yemen.

During the meeting, UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths will post UNSC members on his comprehensive plan to achieve peace in Yemen.

Al Arabiya al Hadath, meanwhile, quoted UN sources as having said that no progress was made during Griffiths' talks with Houthi militias about Hodeidah.

Houthi leaders would not withdraw from Hodeidah Port and hand it over to UN supervision, according to the sources.

They demanded more time to study Griffiths' proposal, the sources added.

ADEN, June 17, 2018 (MENA) – The Yemeni army repelled on Sunday a Houthi militia attack against its sites in southern Taiz city.

The militiamen tried to infiltrate into the Yemeni army outposts under fire and snipers coverage.

The Yemeni army forced them into retreating after fierce clashes that lasted for several hours.

Five civilians were injured by the Houthi snipers, while three militants were captured.

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