Dozens dead as Hodeidah offensive enters its second day

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He added that Houthi militias continue to obstruct UN mediation efforts to end the conflict, leading special UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffith to propose handing over control of Hodeidah port to the UN, which is the same proposal made by the coalition many months ago.

"These are the last and final hours to get unconditional guarantees that the Houthis will leave the port", UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Reuters, but declined to discuss military operations.

UAE-backed Yemeni forces - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh - are fighting alongside Emirati and Sudanese troops.

June 2015: A USA airstrike kills al-Qaida's number 2, the head of its Yemeni branch, Nasir al-Wahishi.

The worldwide aid group warned of a "high risk of a second outbreak" should water supplies be disrupted.

The Saudi-led coalition has been criticised for its air strikes which have killed civilians.

For years, coalition leaders have clamored for the Pentagon, which already provides intelligence, midair refueling capabilities and munitions to the campaign, to greenlight an offensive for the port.

"Any closure of the port, even for a few days, will have a dramatic impact on the humanitarian operations in the country", the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, told The Associated Press Thursday. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organization.

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the waters off Hodeida, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state media.

Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to negotiate on keeping Hudaida open and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said any battle for Hodeida would exacerbate the suffering of the population.

Wednesday's was the largest battle of Yemen's three-year civil war between the Saudi alliance and Houthi rebels. The Coalition have assured us that they are incorporating humanitarian concerns into their operational plans.

"The most effective solution to the situation in Hodeidah, and in Yemen, is for the Houthi militias to adhere to UN Security Council resolution 2216, which calls for the unconditional Houthi withdrawal from all occupied cities", he continued. In a report on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the United States is providing the Saudis with "intelligence to fine-tune their list of airstrike targets" in Hodeida. It was unclear if that applied to assistance to the coalition that Washington provides in the form of aircraft refuelling and intelligence support.

Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by foreign and Yemeni troops massed south of the port of Hodeida in operation "Golden Victory".

Western countries, particularly the United States and Britain, have quietly backed the Arab states diplomatically and sell them billions of dollars a year in arms, but have mostly avoided direct public involvement so far in the Yemen conflict. The Houthis, from a Shi'ite minority, deny being Iran's pawns and say they took power in a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbors.

The coalition says one of the main justifications for its intervention is to protect Red Sea shipping, which brings Middle East oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said members of the invading coalition as well as the U.S. and Britain must be held accountable for the raid and a consequent escalation of humanitarian crisis.

Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for global cooperation, has said if the port is wrested from the Houthis, the coalition could ease controls aimed at denying the group arms and ease the flow of goods and aid into Yemen, where millions face starvation and disease.