Yemen rebel attack kills dozen outside Hodeida
A Yemen rebel attack left 12 soldiers dead south of the battle-ground port city of Hodeida on Friday, military and medical sources have reported.
Houthi rebels launched the attack on the coastal road from the government-held ports of Khokha and Mokha, along which Saudi and UAE-backed troops have advanced on Hodeida earlier this week, the military source said.
The attack came 80 kilometres south of Hodeida away from the frontline fighting taking place around the city’s disused airport.
Dozens of combatants have been killed since the offensive began on Wednesday and the United Nations has voiced concern for the vital aid shipments that pass through the city's docks.
Before the war, over 70 percent of Yemen's food and fuel imports came through Hodeida, accounting for over 40 percent of the nation's customs income.
The Red Sea port remains crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine for a nation driven to the brink of famine by the conflict and a Saudi-led blockade.
The capture of Hodeida would be the coalition's biggest victory of the war so far and on Thursday rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi called on his forces to keep up their resistance and turn the coastal region into a "swamp for the invaders".
The Saudi-led Arab coalition supporting pro-Yemen government troops reportedly requested intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance from the US, a request denied as Congress opposes the offensive.
The UN Security Council met for urgent talks on Thursday, following the launch of the offensive on the Yemeni port.
The United Nations has raised alarm over the military operation, which could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen who are on the brink of famine.
More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.
Aid groups have pulled staff from the town over the deteriorating security situation and warned of catastrophic consequences.
Save the Children on Wednesday said 300,000 children were in the line of fire.
In a statement it said it was "extremely concerned" that the port in Hodeida will be closed and "despite repeated warnings of the devastating impact this will have, a famine is becoming a real possibility, with hundreds of thousands of lives at risk".
Oxfam's Yemen chief, Muhsin Siddiquey, said: "An attack on Hodeida will bring death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach."
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Houthis after they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and restore the internationally recognised government to power.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands wounded in what has been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.