Yemen: Attack on Hodeidah threatens civilian lives and lifesaving humanitarian aid

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They say a network of minefields in the rebel-held areas has hindered the advance of government forces.

The UAE has said coalition forces plan to keep the port operational but warned that the Houthis could sabotage infrastructure and place land and sea mines as they withdraw.

Four UAE soldiers were killed during the assault on the port city on Wednesday according to the General Command of UAE's armed forces. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

Aid groups warn that the attack on Hodeida, the country's main entry point for food and humanitarian aid, could make a catastrophic situation even worse.

Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed AlJabir tweeted on Wednesday that the liberation of Hodeidah will allow to Yemen's main port to return to 2014 capacity levels.

"We still have seven ships in the port". Several ships have arrived in recent days, including oil tankers, and there has been no word from the coalition or United Nations to stop work, according to a senior port official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. "And we have 5 other ships standing by waiting outside to enter", port director Dawood Fadel told AFP. The official said UAE intelligence indicated that Houthis had mined the port.

"We are in an area close to the airport, but not to the sea port".

The action, dubbed by the Saudis as "Operation Golden Victory", involves a relatively large force, using both air and sea bombardment.

He added that the UAE and the Saudi-led coalition went ahead with the campaign despite knowing that global aid agencies fear it could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-UAE attack is part of the coalition's continuing military effort, again with American assistance, to topple the Houthi regime and restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled the country almost four years ago.

The plan, announced in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, late Wednesday, includes establishing routes for food, medical supplies and oil shipments to Hodeida from Saudi Arabia's southern city of Jizan and the UAE's capital, Abu Dhabi.

A man carries the body of a child recovered from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2017.

"Under global humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen. Shahari said he feared that the condition of some 300,000 children would worsen with less access to food, water and medicine, describing an already dire situation when he visited Hodeidah three months ago.

The only way to end the crisis in Yemen is the withdrawal of Houthis from all Yemeni cities, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and their acceptance to negotiate as a Yemeni political party and not as an Iranian-backed militia.

After a two-hour U.N. Security Council meeting, the 15-member body urged "all sides to uphold their obligations under worldwide humanitarian law", said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, president of the council for June.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hudaida in recent days.

The request for the Security Council meeting came after the United Nations envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was still holding negotiations on keeping the key port open to aid deliveries.

"These are the last and final hours to get unconditional guarantees that the Houthis will leave the port", UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Reuters, but declined to discuss military operations.

Yemen's Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has spent much of the war in exile in Riyadh, on Thursday visited the southern port city of Aden, where the government set up its base after being ousted from Sanaa.

It would be the first time since the foreign armies joined the war in 2015 on behalf of Yemen's exiled government that they have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city.