UAE: US rejects military aid request in Yemen port assault

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The United States rejected a request from the UAE for intelligence, mine-sweeping and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets for the Hudaida operation, a UAE official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, while noting congressional opposition.

The UAE official did say the coalition is waiting for a minesweeper from France to clear the mines.

A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port in a campaign aimed at driving out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and breaking the civil war's long stalemate.

Western countries have quietly backed the Arab coalition, but the threat of humanitarian catastrophe could unravel that support.

Capturing Hodeidah would be the biggest victory for the Saudi-led coalition since the start of its costly intervention. About a quarter of a million people are in danger of injury or death in an urban assault, the United Nations said.

"It is time for the Security Council to call for an immediate freeze of the military attack on Hodeida", said Swedish Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau in a statement ahead of the meeting.

Global aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 per cent of Yemen's food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

After an emergency closed-door meeting on Thursday, the UN Security Council called for Hodeida and the port of Saleef to be kept open and reiterated support for a political solution to the three-year conflict.

"And we think when the time is appropriate we (will) also push hard the Houthis to leave our capital and restore the stability in Yemen", Alyemany said. The Houthis, from a Shi'ite minority that ruled a thousand-year Yemeni kingdom until 1962, deny being Tehran's pawns and say they took power in a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbours.

The Saudi-led coalition announced Wednesday the launching of the military operation to capture the last Houthi-controlled port.

Meanwhile, a military source said the army and resistance forces aided by the Arab Coalition entered the town of Al-Manzar in the vicinity of the Hodeidah Airport after purging Ad Durayhimi District and Al-Dawar area at the entrance of the city, adding that they are continuing to advance towards the airport where there are fierce battles.

The United Nations has called for a halt to the fighting, saying the lives of 250,000 residents of Hodeidah are at risk.

The Huthis suffered 30 fatalities on Thursday in clashes near Hodeida airport south of the city, medical sources told AFP.

Fighting on Thursday appeared to be concentrated around the city's airport, the first strategic target the Arab coalition is trying to seize before battling for control of the vital port facilities.

With logistical support from the United States, 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.

Apart from Hudaida, the Houthis control the capital, Sanaa, and most of the country's populated areas.

"We don't think there is a military solution to the conflict in Yemen, but we think every time we push hard, the Houthis accept to engage", Yemen's new foreign minister, Khaled Hussein Alyemany, told reporters in NY.

The UN official further called on Yemen's warring camps "to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and... respect global humanitarian law".

On Monday, the Security Council said it supported United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths, who is leading diplomatic efforts to convince the Huthi rebels to hand over control of the port.

On Thursday, authorities said the Red Sea lifeline remained open to shipping.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began the assault on the port city of Hodeida (hoh-DY'-duh) on Wednesday.