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Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition on Wednesday launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Houthis. The battle for Hodeida, if the Houthis don't withdraw, also may mark the first major street-to-street urban fighting for the Saudi-led coalition, which can be deadly for both combatants and civilians alike.

Social media users shared video of what appeared to be a convoy of vehicles approaching the crucial port city early Wednesday morning. The sound of intense and continuous shots could be heard clearly in the background.

March 26, 2015: A Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States, begins an air campaign against the Houthis and imposes a naval blockade. In a statement, he held the USA and Britain responsible for the Saudi-backed attack on the vital port city.

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

The alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven from the capital Sanaa and into exile in 2014. But if the battle is prolonged, it will leave millions of Yemenis without food, fuel and other vital supplies.

"Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes", Jolien Veldwijk-acting country director for the humanitarian group CARE, which is still operating in Yemen-told Reuters on Wednesday as the US-backed Saudi assault on Hodeida began.

Mohammad Ali Houthi, a leader with the Houthi rebels, tweeted Wednesday that Hudaydah was a civilian port and that every ship entering it submits to a coalition search.

Through this period and in many occasions, the Arab coalition has called for an worldwide action to put a halt to rockets and weapons smuggling through aid campaigns entering Yemen from Hodeidah port, demanding to no vain, that the global community should send humanitarian organizations to monitor the aid shipment entering Yemen.

In a statement on Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi strongly condemned the aerial and naval strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition on Yemen's Red Sea port of Hudaydah.

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The UN said 600,000 people live in and around Hodeidah, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in an assault.

The war in Yemen has displaced 2 million more and helped spawn a cholera epidemic. Around two-thirds of the country's population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.

They say a network of minefields in the rebel-held areas has hindered the advance of government forces.

The UAE's Gargash said plans were in place to keep the port operational and urged the worldwide community to pressure the Houthis to evacuate and leave the port intact, without planting mines.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to hold negotiations on keeping Hodeidah open and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

There was no immediate word from state media in either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, which lead a coalition backing Yemen's exiled government.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the U.S. continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition.

April 2015: The U.N. Security Council imposes an arms embargo on the Houthis and demands they pull back from territory they have captured. The Houthis, drawn from a Shi'ite minority that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, say they took power through a popular revolt against corruption and are now defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbours.

The Houthi official responsible for foreign affairs, Hisham Sharaf, said the advance was a military escalation aimed at hampering United Nations efforts, Houthi-run media said.


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