The War in Yemen: Saudi-led forces launch assault on Hudaida

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Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi positions in Yemen's Hodeidah for a second day on Thursday, as a Saudi-led alliance tried to seize the main port in the largest battle of a war that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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.

Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster.

The vast majority of the casualties have been the result of coalition air strikes.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the current council president, told reporters Wednesday that the United Kingdom asked for the meeting.

On her part, the UAE senior official said the UAE has responded to the United Nations plan to give relief to Yemen and offered $500 million in support of the plan.

More than 10,000 people have died and 3 million displaced in that time. "I can not overemphasize that there is no military solution to the conflict", the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen said in a statement.

He called on all parties to engage with United Nations efforts "to spare Hodeida any military confrontation" and "give peace a chance".

The importance of Hodeidah lies in the fact that it has one of the key strategic ports on the Red Sea Coast.

Eleven humanitarian aid agencies, including Oxfam and Save the Children, separately wrote to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson earlier this week urging him to warn the coalition that it will lose British support if it attacks Hodeidah.

"UNICEF has pre-prepositioned supplies in Hodeida: over 20,000 basic hygiene kits (one kit per family)".

In Hodeidah, people waited anxiously for the fighting to reach their neighbourhoods.

Iranian-aligned Shia rebels known as Houthis and their allies for years have held the Red Sea port, crucial to food supplies in a nation on the brink of starvation after years of war.

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities - accusations denied by the group and Iran.

Pro-government forces in Yemen began an assault Wednesday on the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, which is held by Houthi rebels.

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Yemeni officials say the battles are centered in and around the ad-Durayhimi district. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists.

Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa.

Emirati forces with Yemeni troops moved in from the south near Hudaida's airport, while others sought to cut off Houthi supply lines to the east, the officials said.

They say the fighting is raging in the coastal areas of ad-Durayhimi district. "Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes".

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has raised alarm over the plight of Hodeida's 300,000 children and the risk that drinking water supplies will be disrupted.

"The liberation of the province of Hodeidah from the grip of the. militias, will be the beginning of the complete victory for the liberation of all the Yemeni lands", Yemen's government in exile said in a statement. "Liberation of the port of Hodeida is a milestone in our struggle to regain Yemen from the militias".

It added that recapturing the port city will be the beginning for "liberating" all of Yemen from rebels, including the capital Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the U.S. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.

"We foiled a sea landing of Saudi and Emirati forces near the port of Hodeidah", Dayfallah al-Shami, a member of the Houthi movement's political bureau, told the al-Mayadeen.

The rebels have said they will "confront the coalition of aggression on all fronts".

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network reported "intense and concentrated" strikes near the port.

Early on Wednesday, convoys of vehicles headed towards the rebel-held city as heavy gunfire rang out.

"Today I heard warplanes hovering and the sounds of explosions", a 20-year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told Al Jazeera.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.

The United Nations on Monday withdrew its worldwide staff from Hodeida, saying an attack would "impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians".

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