Emirati official says battle for Hodeida is key

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On Thursday, a senior UAE official said the Trump administration has rejected requests for military assistance in the coalition attack on Hodeida.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, however, that France had agreed to provide minesweeping support for the operation.

In his view, retaking the port leads to depriving Iran-allied Houthis to the huge financial income it derives from controlling imports coming through Hodeidah, as well as their ability to seize humanitarian aid from global organizations and their targeting of the group's followers and militants.

Forces from a Saudi-led coalition were poised to enter the airport of Yemen's main port, Hudaida, on Friday as the Saudi-led alliance prepare to try to seize the city from Houthi rebels in the biggest battle of a three-year war.

The Arab League said it supported the coalition, especially in Hudaida.

The ship was struck during the initial Saudi-led coalition assault on the Yemeni city of Hodeidah, which is spearheaded by the UAE and codenamed Golden Victory.

The advance followed heavy overnight clashes with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels holding Hodeidah city and its port and airport. It will be the second time the Council convenes this week over the situation in Yemen, which aid groups warn stares at an imminent humanitarian crisis.

"We are there and delivering, we are not leaving Houdaida", Grande said.

The internationally recognized government of Yemen - led by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi - has also signaled its support for the Hodeidah operation. They also accuse the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons through, something a United Nations panels of experts described in January as "unlikely" as incoming ships require United Nations permission and are subject to random searches.

"We believe that this operation is a critical step toward achieving a political solution to this conflict", the Emirati ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh, told reporters in a briefing.

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The Air Defense Forces of the Coalition detected the launching of a ballistic missile at 15:09 hours Thursday by Houthi militias from Saada city in Yemen towards Saudi territories.

The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid and the number at risk of starvation could more than double to more than 18 million by year-end unless access improves.

The officials told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television that troops had entered the Al Manzar area adjacent to the airport, which lies just south of Hodeidah city.

Meanwhile, Col. Aziz Rashed, the spokesman for an army unit allied with the Houthis, told a news conference in the capital, Sanaa, that the rebels foiled a naval attack by government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition in waters off Hodeida.

That includes the Security Council, which according to The Associated Press announced after its closed-door meeting that it has "deep concerns about the risks to the humanitarian situation" in Hodeidah.

But the U.N. chief said in the report to the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that the United Nations has been unable to determine whether the missile parts and technology were transferred from Iran after January 16, 2016, when U.N. restrictions came into force. "If they keep Hodeida and its revenues and its strategic location, the war will last a long time and (add to) the suffering of the Yemeni people".

On Thursday, authorities at Hodeida port said the Red Sea lifeline remained open to shipping.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began the assault on the port city of Hodeida (hoh-DY'-duh) on Wednesday.

Huthi urged his troops to "confront the forces of tyranny", warning they would recapture areas taken by pro-government forces by bringing "huge numbers" of fighters to the battle, according to the rebels' Al-Masirah TV.

About 80 percent of humanitarian relief goods for the country are transported through the port. The operation aims to take the port city from the Iranian-backed Houthis.

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