USA warns UAE aid must flow through Yemen port

As the US-backed coalition in Yemen appears ready to assault the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the country's aid, Congress is calling on the Pentagon to "use all available means" to stop the operation.

Britain requested the urgent talks after telling aid agencies on the ground that it had received a warning from the United Arab Emirates that an attack was imminent.

Three civilians were killed in the south of Saudi Arabia by a missile launched from Yemen by the Houthi movement, Saudi state-owned Al Ekhbariya TV said late Saturday. 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.

A pro-government Yemeni soldier fires a machine gun on June 7, 2018, near the city of Al Jah in the Hodeida province, 50 kilometers from the port city of Hodeida, which the Iran-backed Huthi insurgents seized in 2014.

The Western diplomat said there were "a couple of last ditch attempts" to try to see whether there were any options to de-escalate, including a plan to "see some sort of a temporary ceasefire", but that would involve the Houthis putting their weapons down or potentially even moving out of the port. The fighting has escalated as government forces close in on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a vital lifeline through which most of Yemen's food and medicine enters.

"We are, at the present moment, in intense consultation", the UN's secretary general, António Guterres, told reporters.

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The United States urged all parties of the conflict to ensure humanitarian access to the Yemeni people, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday.

He also announced that humanitarian shipment permits were being granted regularly, and that humanitarian aid has been flowing continuously into all parts of Yemen.

But he urged them to support United Nations peace efforts. Aid agencies have warned that an attack would have catastrophic consequences.

"If an attack does take place, casualties on all sides will be high with a likely catastrophic impact on the civilian population", they wrote.

Saudi Arabia launched a war against the Houthis in March 2015, backing Yemen's internationally recognized government after the rebels drove them from the capital, Sanaa.

An alarming 22.2 million people in Yemen - the Arab world's poorest country - need some kind of humanitarian or protection assistance, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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