A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port.
INTERNATIONAL.- The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government captured a town south of the port city of Hodeida on Thursday as fierce fighting and airstrikes pounded the area on the second day of an offensive to capture the strategic harbor that is the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of famine.
A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port in a campaign aimed at driving out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and breaking the civil war’s long stalemate.
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International aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 percent of Yemen’s food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.
The United Arab Emirates ambassador to U.N. agencies in Geneva maintained the coalition had no choice but to act. “Should we leave the Houthis smuggling missiles?” Ambassador Obaid Salem al-Zaabi told a news conference. “This comes from this seaport.
We already gave the United Nations the chance to operate from this seaport, and (the Houthis) refused.” The ambassador’s comments contradict the conclusions of a U.N. panel of experts that said it was unlikely the Houthis were using the port for smuggling arms.