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Yemen's president has returned to his country after apparently patching up relations with the United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia is leading an assault on Yemen's rebel-held port city of Hodeida.

A presidential source told Xinhua that President Hadi would spend the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr with Yemeni citizens in the city of Aden.

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.

On Monday, the UNSC said it supported Griffiths' diplomatic efforts but did not specifically call on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to refrain from attacking the city - a key point for aid supply.

"The offensive against Hodeida risks triggering catastrophic consequences for all of Yemen", Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday ahead of the Security Council meeting later in the day. But that support could falter if the assault provokes the feared humanitarian catastrophe.

Huthi chief Abdelmalik al-Huthi urged his forces Thursday to keep fighting, saying they would recapture areas taken by pro-government forces and turn Yemen's western coastline into a "quagmire for the invaders". 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.

Houthi spokesmen, for their part, have yet to comment on the army's claims.

Coalition spokespeople said 18 air attacks were fired on the outskirts of Hudaida on Wednesday.

Yemen's government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi declared on Wednesday that it had begun an operation to retake Hodeidah, a key stronghold of Houthi anti-government forces. Earlier this week, Saudi coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told regional TV network al-Hadath that "we will not fight a street war with the Houthis in Hodeidah city, for the safety of civilians". Iran denies arming the rebels. However, local military sources said the Houthis have surrounded themselves with a large number of landmines, meaning that it would take some time for coalition forces to battle their way to the main airport buildings. The UAE also acknowledged "the port remains open and operational".

The council added: "People in the governorate have reported heavy airstrikes along coastal areas and roads in districts south of Hodeida city".

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As of Thursday afternoon, no attacks had been reported within the city itself, according to Norwegian aid group NRC, despite the overhead presence of fighter jets.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel aired footage it described as being from near Hodeida showing a burned-out truck, corpses of irregular fighters and a damaged Emirati armoured vehicle.

The officials declined to give death toll.

The Houthis are backed by Iran, and its members follow the Shia Islamic branch of Zaidism.

He added that the UAE and the Saudi-led coalition went ahead with the campaign despite knowing that global aid agencies fear it could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

The Hudaida port is a vital lifeline that is crucial for the flow of food supplies into a country that is on the brink of starvation, as it serves the entry point for 70 percent of the country's imports.

Pro-government Yemeni forces tweeted they had captured the airport entrance and were advancing down the main road towards the port.

"People are scared. The warships are terrifying and warplanes are flying overhead all the time", university student Amina, 22, who lives near the port, told Reuters by telephone.

It was the second day of an offensive to capture the strategic harbour which is the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of starvation.


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