Heavy clashes near Yemen's Hodeidah as United Nations seeks ceasefire

Heavy clashes near Yemen's Hodeidah as United Nations seeks ceasefire

"We will continue to discourage any attack on Hodeidah port and will continue to use our influence to do so", Alistair Burt, a foreign office minister, told the House of Commons.

The United Nations relocated members of its global staff from Hodeidah on Monday.

Scores of Houthi rebels were killed in clashes and coalition airstrikes in Yemen's western coast over the past week, according to the Yemeni army on Monday.

There have been reports that close U.S. ally the United Arab Emirates and local allies, tiring of the Huthi's ability to tax imports at Hodeida, is planning to capture the port. UN Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths has been holding talks with the Houthis to hand over control of the port to the United Nations, Yemeni political sources have said.

Yemen relies on imports for 90 percent of its food and 70 percent of those transit through Hodeidah, Lowcock said.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the current council president, said discussions centered on "the need for de-escalation". "It is essential for him to be given the time that he needs to facilitate a negotiated solution that avoids conflict in the city and we support his efforts to do so".

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The U.N. made a decision to evacuate its staff after member states were told that an attack was imminent, the New York Times reported.

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.

United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors later Monday that it's critical to prevent "a battle" for Hodeida, which is a vital link for supplying millions of Yemenis with the necessities of life.

Griffiths told the council in April that he was working on a peace plan for Yemen but that any military action risked derailing that effort. Other attacks on Riyadh have taken place since, the most recent being in May.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an attack could cost as many as 250,000 people "everything - even their lives", and humanitarian organizations have warned that damage to the port, which accounts for the vast majority of the country's food and fuel imports, could tip Yemen into a long-warned-of starvation.

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.

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