Houthi Leader's Brother May Be Dead in Offensive on Yemen's Hodeidah

Residents of the city collect water from an Oxfam water tank

Residents of the city collect water from an Oxfam water tank

Map locates Hodeida, Yemen, where Saudi-led forces began assault.

Before the war, over 70% of Yemen's food and fuel imports came through Hodeidah, accounting for over 40% of the nation's customs income.

Yemen's biggest port, Hodeidah is the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, which lives in Houthi territory.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday on the Saudi-led coalition's offensive against Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.

According to medical sources in the province, 22 Houthi fighters were killed by coalition raids, while three pro-government fighters were killed in a rebel ambush south of Hodeida. The port is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital held by the Houthis since they swept into the city in September 2014.

Yemen's government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

Hadi's government said in a statement reported by Saudi media on Wednesday that all political and peaceful approaches to drive the Houthis out of Hodeidah had been exhausted.

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

United Nations resident and humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen Lise Grande, speaking by telephone from Sanaa, said that her office was drawing up options to ensure aid delivery to millions of Yemenis "in case of a possible siege of Hodeidah", including a humanitarian airlift.

"The coalition's operations to liberate Hodeidah is part of the Coalition's unwavering commitment to support the people of Yemen against the tyranny imposed by Iranian-backed militias that are spreading chaos and destruction in Yemen", Khalid bin Salman wrote in a tweet.

"If the Houthis don't get out of Hodeidah city and the port, the UAE will start a military operation against the rebels in Hodeidah", Gargash was quoted as saying by the French daily.

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"The Houthi's continued obstruction with regards to Hodeidah is due to their use of the port to raise revenues through looting, extortion, and illegal taxation imposed on commercial ships to finance and sustain their military aggression against Yemen and neighboring countries".

"We gave United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths 48 hours to convince the Houthis to withdraw from the port and city of Hodeidah", UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told France's Le Figaro newspaper. "These 48 hours expire during the night of Tuesday and Wednesday".

The war pits the Houthis against the Western-backed Sunni Muslim states, which intervened in 2015 to restore the exiled government and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as expansionist aims of their Shi'ite Muslim foe Iran.

"In the meeting, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi hailed the positions of the UAE leadership ... in defending a common destiny", Saba said.

Yemen has been in crisis since the 2011 mass protests that ended then president Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

Saudi Arabia's Western allies, which sell arms to coalition states, have not said publicly if they approve of the assault.

The International Crisis Group predicted that the most likely outcome of the battle for Hudaydah - one of Yemen's most densely populated areas - was "not a quick, clean victory for government forces followed by outright Houthi capitulation, as some hope, but prolonged and destructive fighting".

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has raised alarm over the plight of Hodeida's 300,000 children and the risk that drinking water supplies will be disrupted.

He said the kits include food for a family of four for two weeks as well as hygiene items and other essential goods. He also claimed that an estimated 15 percent of worldwide commerce passes through the Red Sea.

The renewed push on Hodeidah comes amid increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and arch-foe Iran after the United States withdrew last month from an worldwide nuclear agreement with Tehran, a move hailed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

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