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SAUDI-led forces bombarded the key Yemeni port of Hodeida today, hours after Houthi fighters rejected a midnight deadline to withdraw.
Reports suggested that the brother of Houthi leader Abdul al-Houthi had been killed along with 16 key figures in the early stages of the assault, though that could not be confirmed.
Coalition forces attacked the port despite humanitarian organisations warning it was “likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation.” Hodeida has a population of around 400,000 and is a main entry point for aid into Yemen.
UN spokeswoman Lise Grande said she feared “as many as 250,000 people may lose everything — even their lives” as a result of the bombing of the port.
The Saudis claim that Iran has supplied the Houthi forces with weapons through the port. Both Iran and the Houthis deny this.
The Houthis have held Yemen’s fourth-biggest city since they seized large parts of the country following an uprising in 2014 and 2015, prompting President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to safety among his Saudi patrons.
More than 8 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, with 22 million relying on humanitarian aid due to the bombing campaign which started in March 2015.
The coalition forces are supported by weapons sales and military direction from Britain and the US and have been accused of committing war crimes, with 10,000 civilians killed and infrastructure destroyed.
The United Nations attributed the worst cholera outbreak in generations, which has killed an estimated 2,290 people, to the coalition bombing campaign.
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government in exile said that retaking Hodeida would be “a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas.”
The Houthis promised they would “confront the coalition of aggression on all fronts.”
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