Saudi-Led Coalition Seizes Entrance To Yemen's Houthi-Held Hodeidah Airport

Yemeni pro-government forces flash the victory gesture as they arrive in Al Durayhimi district about nine kilometres south of Hodeidah international airport

Around two-thirds of the country's population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.

Worldwide aid groups and the United Nations cautioned the Saudi-led coalition from launching the assault. "We think every time we push hard the Houthis accept to engage, and they will engage more", he said.

"We are in an area close to the airport, but not to the sea port", he told a news conference in the UAE.

No injuries were reported, Saudi Press Agency reported, quoting the official spokesman of the Coalition Col.

Dozens of missiles have been fired at Saudi Arabia in recent months.

However, the official said France had agreed to provide mine-sweeping support for the operation.

"This coalition will start to operate an air and sea bridge, as well as land, to transport aid and medical supplies, food, shelter and fuel other basic necessities to Hodeida province", he told reporters. "No direct attacks have been reported within Hodeida city itself, despite the overhead presence of fighter jets".

As they pounded the area around Hodeida's airport, the architect of the war, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, was attending the opening match of the World Cup in Moscow, Saudi Arabia versus Russian Federation.

The Saudi-led coalition announced Wednesday the launching of the military operation to capture the last Houthi-controlled port.

The Huthis suffered 30 fatalities on Thursday in clashes near Hodeida airport south of the city, medical sources told AFP.

The official said the coalition has rolled out a plan for humanitarian aid, including plans to establish a shipping lane to Hodeidah from Abu Dhabi and Jizan, a southern city in Saudi Arabia.

The offensive by Saudi Arabia and Arab allies comes after the Yemen government said it had exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the militia from the port of Hodeida, which has been under Houthi control since 2015. He said the rebels had countered "hostile naval warships" off the coasty of al-Olifika, to the south.

The council is set to meet behind closed doors to discuss the assault launched on Wednesday on rebel-held Hodeida despite United Nations warnings of a looming catastrophe in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation. The UN Security Council has raised alarm over the military operation, which it says could cripple desperately needed deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in the aid-dependent country.

"There is no substitute for Hodeida".

"At every step along the way the Houthis will be given opportunities to retreat, to disarm and to come back to the negotiating process", she said.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Thursday, at the request of Britain, over the offensive. The Houthis earlier said they had struck a coalition ship off the coast of Hodeida with two missiles.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media and the witnesses for fear of reprisals.

The UAE Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said the offensive was a "deliberate, carefully prepared and executed operation" and that coalition forces, under the direction of the Yemeni government, would advance in a "a calibrated, gradual" way.

Hodeida, home of almost 700,000 people, is some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, which is under Houthi control.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said both the coalition and the Houthis have "atrocious" records adhering "to the laws of war".

Worldwide aid groups cautioned the threat of a major humanitarian catastrophe was growing as fighting drew closer to Hodeida, with the United Nations estimating some 600,000 people live in and around the city.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic. It was not clear what advances, if any, the ground troops backed by the Saudi-led coalition had made in Hodeida, or what the scope of casualties were.

An administration official acknowledged that the coalition would like the U.S.to get more involved militarily in the battle to free the port, but so far that has not happened.

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