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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Yemen latest: Coalition forces launch Hodeidah operation — live updates

UAE deadline for UN to negotiate withdrawal of Houthis from the port city passed on Tuesday night

Sudanese forces fighting alongside the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah. According to reports, the Saudi-led military coalition and Yemeni government forces continue to send reinforcements toward the port city of Hodeidah, preparing to launch an assault on the Houthi-controlled main port of Yemen. Najeeb Al Mahboobi 
Sudanese forces fighting alongside the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah. According to reports, the Saudi-led military coalition and Yemeni government forces continue to send reinforcements toward the port city of Hodeidah, preparing to launch an assault on the Houthi-controlled main port of Yemen. Najeeb Al Mahboobi 

This blog is now closed - Follow the latest developments from the second day of the Hodeidah offensive here

Yemen government forces — backed by the Arab coalition — launched on Wednesday morning an offensive on the rebel-held port city of Al Hodeidah.

The decision to launch a military operation to liberate the city from the Iran-backed Houthi militia came after “exhausting all peaceful and political means”, reported Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency.

On Tuesday, Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the Houthis must evacuate Yemen's main port of Al Hodeidah as an ultimatum issued came to a close.

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20:10 - Yemen and coalition forces begin Hodeidah assault: Full story

You can read a full round-up of today's events from our Yemen correspondent Ali Mahmood here

Source: American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project, AP
Source: American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project, AP

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19:00 - Yemeni forces wrest control of suburbs south of Hodeidah

Sky News Arabia reported that coalition and government troops had reached the town of Al Durayhami, around 13 km south-east of Al Hodeidah airport. However, there were reports that clashes were still taking place with Houthi rebels.

Wam news agency quoted a Yemeni military source as saying that "large contingents" from the government's Giants Brigades, National Resistance and Tihama Resistance had reached the outskirts of Al Hodeida city, backed by sophisticated weapons systems.

"They continue to deploy along the front lines in anticipation of the start of the battle," the source said.

Early in the day, Yemeni forces seized control over the suburb of Nukhaylah which lies around 10km south of Al Hodeidah, Al Arabiya reported.

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18:12 - Sky News Arabia footage from inside Hodeidah

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17:53 - UN negotiations ongoing

"The United Nations is determined to move ahead with the political process despite the recent developments. I reiterate the strong commitment of the United Nations to reaching a political solution to end the conflict in Yemen," said the UN envoy for Yemen.

Adding he is continuing to hold negotiations on keeping a key port in Yemen open to aid deliveries.

"We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hodeidah that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties," said Martin Griffiths in a statement.

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17:26 Yemen President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi says Houthis to blame for humanitarian catastrophe

President Hadi called for a quick liberation of Hodeidah in order to avoid a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.

"Houthis have rejects political negotiations to end this crisis. We are still seeking a peaceful solution," President Hadi said on Wednesday.

Mr Hadi also called on the Arab coalition to support the Yemeni army and the resistance movement to end the battle of Hodeidah.

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16:58 - 'People fear the operation, at the same time they are tired of Houthi rule'

Outspoken Yemeni activist Baraa Shiban tweets from Yemen, says he spoke to civilians in Hodeidah who say they are tired of Houthi rule but also fear becoming casualties in the military operation.

"They are also afraid of the Houthi tactics that would include the use of snipers, planting landmines across the city ... and if they were pushed out they will start shelling the city like they did in the other towns," he tweeted.

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16:31 - Arab Coalition to deliver urgent aid supplies to Hodeidah: Reem Al Hashimy

The Arab Coalition is set to deliver humanitarian aid to the Yemeni Governorate of Hodeidah and surrounding areas.

Food and essential supplies are ready for immediate delivery. "We have ships, planes, and trucks with food supplies and medicine to address the immediate needs of the people," Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation said.

"Hodeidah port remains open to shipping. Should the Houthis attempt to further damage and destroy any port or logistics infrastructure, we have also put contingency plans in place to move aid by other methods to Hodeidah and points beyond."

The UAE continues to work with aid agencies on the ground to ensure that once the port is liberated they can increase the delivery of aid, the minister added.

The coalition has so far donated $14 billion (Dh51.4 billion) in aid to Yemen.

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15:50 - Editorial: The battle of Hodeidah is a watershed moment in the Yemen war and aims to bring an end to a three-year conflict

Today marked a watershed moment in the Yemeni conflict; a day the Saudi-led coalition has sought to avoid but had become impossible to delay for the sake of the Yemeni people.

No stone has been left unturned in trying to reach a peaceful conclusion and end the suffering of a country under siege. Concerted efforts by the United Nations and the coalition – which includes the UAE – to end the war with dialogue and diplomacy have failed.

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15:35 - Medics report 22 Houthi fighters killed in past 24 hours

Quoting medical sources in the province, AFP news agency reported that 22 Houthi fighters have been killed over the past 24 hours by coalition raids. It also said three pro-government fighters were killed in a rebel ambush south of Hodeidah.

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15:20 - Saudi's ambassador to US: Houthis rejected all peaceful means to resolve Hodeidah situation

Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States
Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US said that the Houthi rebels have rejected all peaceful means to hand over Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah to the UN.

Prince Khaled bin Salman said the kingdom will not accept the threat the Houthi rebels pose, as the Arab coalition launched an offensive on the rebel-held city on Wednesday.

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14:12 - Strikes near Hodeidah rebel-held port

Intense coalition airstrikes close to the city's port: Saudi TV Al Arabiya cites witness

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14:00 - UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths tweets concern

"we are in contact with parties to avoid further escalation"

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13:36 - Fighting raging in coastal area of Ad-Durayhimi

Yemeni officials say Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have hit most of the Houthi rebel defences of Hodeidah.

They say the fighting is raging in the coastal areas of ad-Durayhimi district.

Residents of coastal villages and other areas between ad-Durayhimi and southern Hodeidah had left their homes ahead of the fighting.

The officials said government forces have headed to the eastern coast aiming at cutting off a rebel supply line between Hodeidah and Sanaa.

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11:12 - Dozens of Houthi rebels killed in coalition airstrikes

Coalition airstrikes target Houthi positions along the coastline between Baiyt Al Faqih and Ad Durayhimi, killing dozens of rebels, according to a local reporter on the ground.

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11:09 – The UN and ICRC call on all sides to protect civilians

The UN and International Committee of the Red Cross said that all parties in Yemen’s war must protect civilians.

"Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive," Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.

In Geneva, ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said that the assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen ", where water and electricity networks are vital to the civilian population's survival.

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10:58 – Saudi ambassador says Hodeidah will be bigger and better

Mohammed Al Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, said that the Hodeidah port will become bigger and better once it is liberated from the Houthis.

“Al Hodeidah will be liberated, and the Yemeni people will gain back a major artery of life. As essential lifeline that was previously plagued by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia,” he said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“The liberation of Al Hodeidah will allow the full utilization of the capacity of its port back to the levels of 2014, it will also enable further expansion of the port’s capacity.”

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10:59 - Governor of Hodeidah tweets

"The battle of Hodeidah will end before it begins" tweets Dr Al Hassan. Adding that Houthi rebels are no match for the Arab coalition.

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10:52 - UAE ships strike Houthi vessels

A local reporter in Hodeidah told The National that UAE battleships off the coast of Yemen targeted Houthi vessels carrying explosive material.

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10:20 - The Norwegian Refugee Council releases a statement

NRC Country Director in Yemen Mohamed Abdi said: "Hodeidah port is no less than Yemen’s lifeline. Yemen is almost totally reliant on imported food, medicine and fuel, up to 80 per cent of which historically reached the country through Hodeidah. An attack on the port would damage pivotal food and fuel pipeline for millions, risking deepening Yemen’s already acute food and health crisis.”

The Arab coalition has assured all sides it will protect the city's lifeline and seek to secure civilian lives.

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10:06 - The role of the coalition and state building

Last week, The National discussed Yemen with Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

"The coalition is concerned with the more macro stability issue. Iran, a functioning Yemeni state, missiles, maritime, navigation etc. But the nuts and bolts of an agreement will be UN-led and should be Yemeni driven, because there has to be a lot of compromises between different parties."

Listen to the full interview here:

Beyond the Headlines podcast: Dr Anwar Gargash on Iran, Yemen, Trump and more

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9:56 - Houthi rebels attack adjoining city to ease fellow fighters in Hodeidah

Omar Saleh, an officer in Al Amalikah brigades told The National that Houthi rebels are carrying out a multipronged attack on Haiys, southeast of Hodeidah.

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9:33 Aid workers in Hodeidah report the city is tense

Norwegian Refugee Council spokesman on the ground reports the city is tense

Their initial estimates are that the most pressing needs in the city are food, clean water and hygiene kits to prevent the spread of cholera

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator has said that if Hodeidah city is subjected to prolonged attack or siege, as many as 250,000 could lose everything – including their lives. And up to 350,000 people may be forced to flee their homes.

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9:30 - Six coalition airstrikes target Houthi vehicles

Six airstrikes launched by the Arab coalition target Houthi militia vehicles as they tried to enter the city of Bayt Al Faqih, located on the pilgrimage and trade route between Hodeidah and Taez.

The secretary of Hodeidah Waleed Al Qudaimi said that Houthi vehicles are patrolling the city streets, calling on residents to fight alongside them.

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08:40 - UAE navy shells Houthi positions

Ali Mahmood, The National correspondent in Yemen, says UAE navy ships are taking part in the offensive.

Residents tell him UAE ships have been shelling Houthi hideouts near the airport and around Hodeidah's harbour.

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07:50 - Hodeidah 'milestone in struggle to get Yemen back from militias'

Yemen's exiled government said their forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault on Hodeidah only after "exhausting all peaceful and political means".

The statement on the government-controlled SABA news agency called the battle for Hodeidah "a milestone in our struggle to get Yemen back from the militias".

Exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and many of his advisers now live in Saudi Arabia after the Iran-backed Houthis seized Sanaa, in September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015.

Mr Hadi was in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. He met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The leaders discussed current developments in Yemen, WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces discusses developments in Yemen with its president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi at Al Shati Palace. Seen with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, right, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, second right. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces discusses developments in Yemen with its president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi at Al Shati Palace. Seen with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, right, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, second right. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

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07:30 - Saudi-led forces launch Hodaideh offensive

Saudi-owned satellite news channels have announced the start of the Saudi-led coalition's operation for Hodeidah.

Citing sources within the military, Al Arabiya said the battle began early on Wednesday morning.

There was no official confirmation from state media in Riyadh.

Earlier, the Saudi Air Defence Force intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militias from Saada province, Yemen, towards Saudi territories.

The official spokesman for the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, Col Turki Al Malki, stated that at 3.46am the Saudi Air Force intercepted a missile launched by the Iran-aligned rebels against the Saudi city Jazan.

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Wednesday

Factsheet on Al Hodeidah

The National
The National
  • UN estimates that 600,000 people live in the city and its environs; 47.5 per cent of the population are below the age of 15
  • Al Hodeidah is Yemen’s biggest Red Sea port and the only one under Houthi control; it is Yemen’s second largest port after Aden
  • It has been held by the Houthis since the beginning of the Yemeni Civil War in 2015 - during which time cholera struck and poverty increased
  • Al Hodeidah is situated 150km to the west of the capital Sanaa
  • Before the war began, Al Hodeidah port handled around 70 per cent of Yemen’s imports
  • The Arab Coalition is concerned because the port is being used by the Houthi rebels to bring missiles in from Iran
  • The Arab Coalition had requested UN control of Al Hodeidah for months - to stop arms smuggling. Requests have not been met
  • Attempt to recover the city would be the first major such Coalition operation in Al Hodeidah, as all efforts had been focused on political resolution
  • Coalition forces began preparations for the assault on the port in late May, and have secured the coastline stretching from Khawkhah 100km south of the port city to Al Durayhimi districts roughly 20km south of Al Hodeidah city
  • UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy between the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to avoid fighting for the city
  • UAE issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Mr Griffiths on June 10 to persuade the Houthi forces in the city to withdraw; this expired on Tuesday night

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Yemen latest

Editorial: The battle of Hodeidah is a watershed moment in the Yemen war and aims to bring an end to a three-year conflict

UAE delivers 5,000 baskets of food to displaced Yemenis

More than 250 Houthis killed in Yemen in past week, army says

Three civilians killed in Saudi Arabia in Houthi missile attack

Houthi rebels target Hajj and Umrah agencies