Fierce fighting intensifies outside Yemen's Hodeida airport

Fighting In Yemen Port City Threatens Aid Shipments

The US government rejected the coalition's request for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support as well as the use of an American minesweeper vessel to help clear the area of Houthi mines, a senior UAE official told CNN.

Abu Zaraa al-Mahrami, the commander of the west coast front, said the Yemeni army and resistance forces are "only meters away from the Hodeidah Airport" after they've seized several areas and inflicted heavy losses on the Houthis.

Arab coalition forces had fought their way to the outskirts of the airport in Yemen's main port city on Friday, in the biggest battle of a three-year war pitting it against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The Arab coalition also struck the main road linking Hodeida to the capital Sanaa to block reinforcements.

A fresh Saudi airstrike on Yemeni city of Sa'ada has killed seven civilians including a woman.

Ahead of the talks, Swedish UN ambassador Carl Skau said it was time for the council to call for an immediate freeze to the military operation.

She described the assault as a "deliberate, carefully prepared and executed operation" and said the coalition's advancing forces would move in a "calibrated, gradual way, and that every step along the way the Houthis will be given opportunities to retreat, to disarm and to come back to the negotiation process".

Dozens of combatants have been killed since the offensive began on Wednesday and the United Nations has voiced concern for the vital aid shipments that pass through the city's docks.

The U.N. Security Council is again calling for the key Yemeni ports of Hodeida and Saleef to be kept open and reiterating support for a political solution as the only way to end Yemen's three-year conflict. "To the contrary, we have allowed them safe passage to the north of the city if they want to drop their arms and leave".

The Houthis, from a Shia minority, deny being Tehran's pawns and say they took power in a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbours.

Yemeni commanders say pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition have reached a town at the entrance of the port city of Hodeida and are just "meters" from the worldwide airport.

Global aid groups cautioned the threat of a major humanitarian catastrophe was growing as fighting drew closer to Hodeida, with the United Nations estimating some 600,000 people live in and around the city.

Ahmed al-Kawkabani, a Yemeni who leads a pro-government militia known as the Tohama Brigade, told The Associated Press that his forces were positioned in Dawar al-Hodeida, just 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the airport.

With logistical support from the U.S., the Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out attacks inside Yemen since March 2015, killing at least 10,000 people, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

After a two-hour UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, the 15-member body urged "all sides to uphold their obligations under global humanitarian law", said Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, president of the council for June.

"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.

The Security Council discussed the Yemen situation in closed session on Thursday.

The assault has sparked fears for the area's 600,000 residents, with aid and rights groups warning it could spell disaster across Yemen, a country already teetering on the brink of starvation. In a statement, he held the United States and Britain responsible for the Saudi-backed attack on the vital port city. Since then, the United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed, mostly due to airstrikes.

"We are facing a small, fanatical group of hardened fighters armed by Iran", Ms Nusseibeh told a press briefing at the UN that was also attended by Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah Al Mouallimi, the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashimy and the Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani.

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