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Battle for Yemeni lifeline port intensifies

June 17, 2018

The five-day battle has claimed the lives of at least 139 fighters. A UN envoy is seeking to end the fighting. The port at Hodeida is considered a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation.

A military truck with an anti-aircraft gun is in flames.
Image: Getty Images/AFP

A Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on a strategic Yemeni airport, and exchanged mortar fire with Houthi rebels Sunday as the battle for Hodeida's airport continued.

The Saudi coalition carried out five strikes on Hodeida, which is a lifeline to millions of Yemenis, providing them with urgently needed food and other necessities. More than 70 percent of Yemen's imports pass through Hodeida.

Saudi-led troops attack Hodeida

The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is spending his second day in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital. He is seeking to end the fighting by urging the rebels to cede control of the port to a UN-supervised committee.

Anwar Gargash, the foreign minister for the United Arab Emirates, which is a member of the Saudi coalition, voiced support for the envoy on Twitter.

At least 139 fighters have been killed since the military offensive began on Wednesday, according to military and medical sources.

Humanitarian crisis

The battle for control of the airport is the biggest military offensive of the three-year civil war, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

The aim of the coalition attack is to cut supply lines to the rebel-controlled capital.

Control of the airport is currently split between the coalition forces and the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, forcing President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. The move prompted the Saudi-led military intervention the following year.

Earlier this year the coalition sought to impose a near-total blockade of the port at Hodeida, accusing the Houthis of using it as a major supply line for arms smuggling.

The UN describes the situation in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Of Yemen's 28 million inhabitants, the UN says 22 million are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are in danger of starving to death.

A fighter with the pro-government forces covers his ears and turns his head away as his colleague fires another mortar round.
Yemen's pro-government forces firing on Houthi rebels in Hodeida provinceImage: Getty Images/AFP

bik/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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