A USA -backed, Saudi-led military coalition is fighting against the Houthis on behalf of the government of President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, who lives in exile in Riyadh. Once envisioned as an Emirati-led amphibious assault needing advanced USA boats to navigate Red Sea minefields laid by Iran, the 45,000-strong force of Yemeni troops has instead moved along the coast in a two-month offensive to reach Hodeidah with refueling support from new helicopter bases.
"There is a humanitarian cost to liberate #Hodeidah, but if the city remains under the control of the Iranian-backed #Houthis militias that's will result in a higher cost for sure".
United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters today that 70 percent of Yemen's imported food, fuel, and medicines come through Hodeidah.
The United Nations relocated members of its global staff from Hodeidah on Monday.
The United Nations has warned that up to 250,000 people were at risk if the coalition moves ahead with an all-out offensive to take the port, which is a major entry point for commercial supplies and aid.More news: After 'difficult' G7 summit, UK's May warns against unilateral action on trade
The UN's top envoy for Yemen pushed for all sides to de-escalate the fighting around Hodeida during a visit earlier this month to broker negotiations. "We left it in his hands for the time being", Nebenzia told reporters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he had spoken with Emirati leaders and urged them to work with the United Nations to ensure "the free flow of humanitarian aid and life-saving commercial imports" through Hodeida.
The U.N. considers Yemen to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance.
He also announced that humanitarian shipment permits were being granted regularly, and that humanitarian aid has been flowing continuously into all parts of Yemen. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen has warned such an attack would be a "catastrophe". "We remind you that three years into the conflict, active United States participation in Saudi-led hostilities against Yemen's Houthis has never been authorized by Congress, in violation of the Constitution".
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Huthis and restore the internationally recognized government to power. It has damaged Yemen's infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of starvation.