Saudi-led forces begin Yemen assault

Yemen troops mass in bid to retake key port

"The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas".

The declaration was followed by airstrikes in and around Hoideidah port, hitting Houthi defences.

They say the fighting is raging in the coastal areas of ad-Durayhimi district.

The biggest battle in a three-year war, which has already created the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, centers on Hodeidah, the main route for food and aid to reach most Yemenis, 8.4 million of whom are on the verge of starvation.

An estimated 600,000 people live in the area.

Fierce clashes were taking place.

Coalition warplanes and warships later began bombarding Houthi positions. It also said three pro-government fighters were killed in a rebel ambush south of Hodeidah.

"The Yemeni government and the coalition have accepted the proposal".

The Arab states hope for a swift victory that would force the Iran-aligned Houthis to negotiate.

Griffiths warned in a statement earlier Wednesday that "further military escalation will have serious consequences on the dire humanitarian situation in the country" and hinder his efforts to restart political negotiations. "We made many concessions to avoid a military option".

"The Houthi militia have attacked commercial and military ships, including ships belonging to the Kingdom, the UAE, the U.S., using advanced anti-shipping systems smuggled into Yemen, such as unmanned vessels".

Gunfire has erupted near Yemen's port city of Hodeida as a Saudi-led coalition's deadline expired for Shiite rebels there to withdraw.

"All member states, led by the US, must demand that vital humanitarian and commercial imports through Hodeidah are maintained", said David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee. "Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes". According to the Houthis, a pair of missiles struck a landing ship as it was conveying equipment and personnel ashore, leading to the retreat of a flotilla of coalition vessels and a search and rescue operation.

"If there is a viable transition to a legitimate presence in Hodeidah this will alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and facilitate the flow of goods and aid into Yemen", Hashimy said in a briefing.

"We don't think the capturing of Hodeidah will damage the peace".

That's how many ads we run on this site. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.

The coalition accuses the Houthi rebels of using the port to secure Iranian arms, notably the ballistic missiles the militants have increasingly fired into Saudi territory.

The Trump administration last week was reportedly considering helping the UAE, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, in an assault on Hodeidah.

"We are distributing food, hygiene and nutritional supplies, shelter materials".

"Hodeidah port remains open to shipping". Hodeida is a crucial port for incoming aid, food and medicine for the impoverished country.

The early stages of Wednesday's offensive followed statements from UAE and Saudi officials that military action was necessary.

Wednesday, the United Nations further warned that escalating violence in Yemen could lead to a refugee exodus as more people flee the starvation and fighting.

The Norwegian Refugee Council urged the United States, Britain and France to release "an immediate warning" against any attack on the city or the port of Hodeida.

Such action was "the Houthi response to worldwide calls for their peaceful retreat", he added.

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

The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said the world body was talking to both sides to try to avert a battle.

Yemeni forces massing around Hodeida are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Mr Hadi came to power in a Saudi-brokered transition, but the Houthis drove him out.

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