UAE troops killed in battle to retake Yemen's port city Hodeida

UAE troops killed in battle to retake Yemen's port city Hodeida

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates forces, with vital guidance and supplies provided by the United States, has launched the largest assault of Yemen's war, with an attack on the massive port city of Hodeidah.

And on Wednesday the Wall Street Journal, citing Pentagon sources, reported that the "US military is helping its Gulf allies develop a list of targets", supposedly with an aim "to minimize the number of civilian casualties".

The U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, warned that a prolonged siege of the port could lead to the deaths of up to a quarter-million Yemenis due to starvation and disease.

Previously, global aid agencies voiced alarm over the "looming disaster,"stressing that a battle will jeopardize the delivery of the scarce humanitarian aid desperately needed by the civilian population".

In reality, families in Hudaydah are already starving and desperately relying on humanitarian aid.

Early on Wednesday, convoys of vehicles headed toward the rebel-held city as heavy gunfire rang out.

Strikes from a Saudi-led coalition began after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels ignored a deadline to withdraw by midnight local time Tuesday, BBC News reports. The city is the last port under the control of Shi'ite rebels, and imports food and aid for over eight million civilians. "That was the situation before, and now it is going to get worse".

Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they have plans in place to prevent the battle from causing a humanitarian disaster. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists. "Liberation of the port of Hudaida is a milestone in our struggle to regain Yemen from the militias".

Emirati state news agency WAM announced that four UAE soldiers were killed on Wednesday in Yemen.

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Human rights groups say airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition have killed and wounded thousands of civilians, often in indiscriminate attacks.

The port city, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the United States.

Just days before the launch of the operation, the United Nations warned that an attack on the densely populated coastal city could cost up to 250,000 lives.

The port remained open, however.

In a joint statement, the two sides shed light on the flagrant violations committed by the Houthi militias in Hodeida port, barring foreign assistance to be delivered to the needy inside Yemen, confiscating the contents of vessels waiting outside the docks of the port to unload the aid.

"I think the Emiratis have done a good job in presenting compelling arguments about why an operation (on Hodeidah) could in the end tip the balance and apply enough pressure to bring the Houthis to the table", a Western diplomat said on Monday. Lasting peace and stability in Yemen will require dialogue and negotiation. The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the offensive.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

Last month, the committee advanced legislation making U.S. midair refueling contingent on Saudi and Emirati efforts to engage in diplomacy, ensure access of humanitarian goods, reduce civilian casualties and avoid damaging critical infrastructure.

"There is an atmosphere of danger and intense fear in these areas where the coalition are clearing out enemy combatants, especially the areas of al-Shajayra and Nakhayla", Bassim al-Jenani, a Yemeni journalist from Hodeidah now based in Egypt, told MEE on Wednesday. Already, Yemeni security officials said some were fleeing the fighting. "This is possibly what we're most concerned about".

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