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Posted by admin on Jun 13, 2018

The TelegraphThe Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen defied the UN yesterday and launched a major assault on the port of Hodeidah, despite warnings that attack could leave 250,000 people dead and drive the country further into famine.  The attack sets the stage for what could be the largest battle of the three-year war, as Yemeni forces supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE attempt attempt to clear Hodeidah of Houthi rebel fighters aligned with Iran.  Hodeidah is a city of 600,000 people and the attack is the most ambitious operation launched so far by the coalition, raising fears of bloody street battles with civilians caught in the crossfire.  Around 70 per cent of all of Yemen’s imports come through Hodeidah, including the vast majority of its food, and the UN conducted a week of frantic shuttle diplomacy to try to avert the attack.  But the fighting began early on Wednesday morning, with Yemeni fighters supported by the UAE attacking the southern edges of the city as coalition warplanes launched a wave of airstrikes. Around 22 Houthi fighters were killed in the opening of the battle while three coalition fighters died, according to medical sources.       Days before the 'Golden Victory' operation began, pro-government Sudanese troops gather Credit: NABIL HASSAN /AFP The UN’s main concern is that the fighting will damage the port or stop the arrival of food, medicine and fuel. Around 22 million people in Yemen are dependent on aid, with at least eight million on the verge of famine. The International Committee of the Red Cross said the attack was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen”.  Anas Shahari, a spokesman for Save the Children Yemen, said that the port appeared to operating at nearly full capacity on Wednesday and that most of the fighting was happening on the southern outskirts of Hodeidah.  But if the battle draws closer to the port or to the densely populated city centre the effects could be devastating. “There are 300,000 children in the city and many of them are malnourished and exclusively reliant on aid. If we leave them without assistance, a lot of children are going to die,” Mr Shahari said.   The battle in Yemen could cost up to 250,000 lives, it is feared Credit: NABIL HASSAN /AFP Yemen’s internationally-recognised government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, said in a statement it had “exhausted all peaceful and political means” to retake Hodeidah from the Houthis.  “The effort to liberate Hodeidah from the Houthi militia is the beginning of a complete victory,” the government said.  The Saudi-led coalition alleges that Hodeidah is being used by the Houthis to smuggle in weapons from Iran, including ballistic missiles which have been fired into Saudi Arabia. The UN has tried to ease coalition concerns by setting up an international operation to inspect ships as they come into Hodeidah and search for hidden weapons.  The UN was in talks with the Houthis early on Wednesday morning to get them to withdraw their forces from Hodeidah and hand over control of the port, a source with knowledge of the talks said. But the talks fell apart shortly before a 3am deadline set by the UAE. Yemen has been at the centre of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis Credit: NABIL HASSAN /AFP Britain supports the coalition’s intervention in Yemen and has sold weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite objections from human rights groups that they regularly bomb civilian targets.  British liaison officers have also been assigned to work with the Saudi military, although the Ministry of Defence says they are not involved in operational activities and are instead giving broad guidance on the use of bombs and how to carry out attacks in line with international law.  The attack on Hodeidah puts the UK in a complicated position, where British bombs are likely being used in an attack that the British government tried to prevent from happening.  “We will continue to discourage any attack o

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