UAE envoy defends targeting of Yemen’s Hodeida port

Losing Hudaida would seriously weaken the Houthis by severing supply lines from the Red Sea to their stronghold in the capital Sanaa

Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition began last Wednesday a military operation to take control of the Rea Sea port town of Hudaydah.

Since Saturday, the so-called coalition has announced a number of times that they had managed to fully capture the airport, but each time it was revealed that the airport was still in the hands of Houthi fighters and Yemeni troops, and that the compound was only within the reach of repeated air raids, Press TV reported.

Last Wednesday, the coalition launched an offensive to clear Hodeida of rebel fighters who have held it since 2014, raising United Nations concerns for vital aid shipments and commercial food imports through the city's docks.

In Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein voiced concern that the Arab offensive could cause "enormous civilian casualties and have a disastrous impact on life-saving aid to millions of people which comes through the port".

The weapons, shown to reporters during a government-sponsored tour in the United Arab Emirates' capital of Abu Dhabi and at an Emirati military base, included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and a "drone boat", which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.

The Amaleqa brigades, a fighting force backed by the coalition that includes the UAE, said it seized areas on the west and east sides of the airport. "Coalition will continue to work with aid agencies on the ground to ensure that once the port is liberated we will quickly increase the capacity of the port".

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The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis depend on aid, and 8.4 million are on the verge of starvation. Officials also displayed a series of drones they said showed a growing sophistication by the insurgents, starting first with styrofoam models that could be built by hobby kit to one captured in April that closely resembled an Iranian-made drone.

More than 40 airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition hit the airport since Tuesday morning, Houthi officials said. They said the driver was digging trenches for Houthi fighters.

"They told us that some humanitarian organisations are going to send buses but then they said no buses could come in or out".

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths left Sanaa on Tuesday, wrapping up a four-day visit during which he spoke with leaders of the Shia Houthi rebel group.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies intervened in 2015, after President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels overran much of the country.

The Houthis, meanwhile, have laid land mines, killing and wounding civilians, targeted religious minorities and imprisoned opponents.

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