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ADEN, June 24, 2018 (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthis deployed additional forces in the main port city of Hodeidah on Sunday as a Saudi-led military coalition moved closer to the city center in the largest offensive of the war, raising U.N. fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched its assault on the heavily defended Red Sea city on June 12 to try to weaken the Iran-aligned Houthi movement by cutting off a key supply line for the group which controls the capital Sanaa and most populated areas.

“There is a heavy deployment of armed Houthis in the city and new check points have been set up in neighborhoods where there are supporters of the Tehama brigades,” said one resident, referring to a Yemeni faction from the Red Sea coastal plain that is fighting with coalition forces.

Fierce clashes broke out after midnight near Hodeidah University, around 3 km (1.9 miles) west of the city center, on the coastal road linking the airport to the port, added the resident, who requested anonymity.

Coalition forces seized the airport on Wednesday and have been consolidating their hold in the area as U.N. efforts continued to reach a political deal that would avert an assault on the port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

The United Nations fears the escalation in fighting could exacerbate what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.

The Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government in exile, but since then neither side has made much progress in the war, widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

U.N. ROLE

The World Food Program said the fighting could result in up to 1.1 million people being either displaced or trapped within the city and in need of emergency food assistance.

U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths has visited Sanaa and Saudi Arabia to try to negotiate a solution.

The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A U.S. official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.

“The coalition will achieve its goal of liberating Hodeida, city & port. Yet we will support all efforts to achieve an unconditional peaceful withdrawal of Houthi gangs,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, which have been launched at Saudi cities. The group and Tehran deny the accusations.

The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.

“The battle for Hodeida is reaching the point of no return,” the International Crisis Group said in a conflict alert.

“This is the final, fragile moment in which it may still be possible for UN-led negotiations to prevent a destructive fight that is likely to exacerbate dire humanitarian conditions and further delay broader negotiations to end the war.”

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 17, 2018 (MENA) - Yemeni troops, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, have advanced in eastern Hodeidah to main roads leading to the capital Sana'a and Taiz, a military source told Sputnik news agency.

The regime military and the Arab coalition have recently launched a massive military offensive to retake the Houthi-controlled port city. They have already controlled the airport of the city.

The offensive will give the the national army and the coalition the upper hand in the war, with the expected retake of the Red Sea port will cut off the main gate of supplies for the Houthi rebels.

DUBAI, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) -- With land, sea and air support by the UAE Armed Forces, the Arab Coalition and Yemeni Resistance forces began on Wednesday a decisive military operation to liberate Hodeidah city and its strategic port from the grip of the Iranian-backed Al Houthi militias, who rejected peaceful solutions.

The forces managed to liberate new strategic areas in Al Duraihimi district and areas adjacent to Hodeidah airport after penetrating the Al Houthi front lines. Following the collapse of their defences, the Al Houthi fighters abandoned their positions, while their commanders fled the areas after the defeat.

Colonel Sadiq Al Duwaid, spokesman for the Yemeni National Resistance, said the joint resistance forces made a huge advance towards Al Hodeidah, closing to 8 kilometres within the city’s airport and controlling the districts of Al Nekhailah and Al Taif, south of Hodeidah, amid major collapse in the Houthi militias ranks. The Arab Coalition’s fighter jets pounded the Houthis reinforcements, while the resistance forces killed and captured dozens of Houthi fighters.

“The Yemeni resistance forces foiled attempts by the Houthis to infiltrate Al Madman area in Tahtia towards Al Faza in what appears to be a desperate move to raise morale of their defeated fighters,” he added.

The assault marks the first time the Arab states have tried to capture such a heavily-defended major Red Sea port city since they joined the war three years ago against the militants, who control the capital Sana’a and most of the populated areas.

RIYADH, June 13, 2018 (News Wires) -- Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition on Wednesday launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Coalition warplanes and warships were carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said in a statement.

The "Golden Victory" operation began after the passing of a deadline set by the United Arab Emirates for the Houthis, who hold the capital Sanaa, to quit the sole port under their control.

Hodeidah is the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, who live in Houthi territory.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, who has threatened attacks on oil tankers along the strategic Red Sea shipping lane, warned the Western-backed alliance not to attack the port and said on Twitter his forces had targeted a coalition barge.

The assault is the first time since the Western-backed coalition of mostly Gulf states joined the war in 2015 that they have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city, with the aim of boxing in the Houthis in Sanaa and cutting their supply lines to force them to the negotiating table.

Preparations in full swing

The Joint Yemeni Resistance Forces increased their readiness to the maximum in preparation for the liberation battle of Al Hodeidah city from the Houthi militias.

A source from the Yemeni National Resistance said that a large number of forces from Brigades AlAmalaqah and the Tihama Resistance Forces, armed with modern weapons and in high morale, have arrived at the outskirts of Al Hodeidah city to continue their build-up in the front lines in preparation for the battle of rolling back the Houthi militias and putting and end to the coup plot in Yemen.

He also added, "the Joint Yemeni Resistance Forces deployed large reinforcements in Al Hodeidah front and took positions in the outskirts of the city in preparation for the big liberation battle".

Our military tactics focus on saving the lives of the civilian people and the infrastructures to ensure the liberation of the city without any civilian causalities, he added.

The member countries of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen are aiming to improve the humanitarian conditions across the areas to be liberated in Al Hodeidah city, to be on par with the other areas that have been liberated from the grip of the Houthis in Yemen's Red Sea

Coast and to help the Yemeni people to overcome the dire conditions caused by the terrorist practices of the elements of the militias.

He also pointed out that the Joint Yemeni Resistance Forces are continuing the large scale combing operations in the farms of Al-Jah city to thwart any infiltration attempt by the Iranian-back Houthi militias to boost the declining morale within their ranks.

"Our forces discovered large quantities of weapons cache, ammunitions and RPG shells that belong to the militants," added the sources.