Fighting rages around airport in Yemen port city of Hodeida

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The US rejected a request from the United Arab Emirates to provide military support to the Saudi-led coalition's operation to capture the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, US and UAE officials tell CNN.

Amidst reports of Houthis' tough response to the Saudi led aggression on port of Hudaidah, the UN Security Council has called on all sides involved in fighting to keep the port open to allow the delivery of aid and other essentials.

Pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched the offensive after Houthi rebels ignored a deadline to leave the port city.

In his view, retaking the port leads to depriving Iran-allied Houthis to the huge financial income it derives from controlling imports coming through Hodeidah, as well as their ability to seize humanitarian aid from worldwide organizations and their targeting of the group's followers and militants.

The Huthis suffered 30 fatalities on Thursday in clashes near Hodeida airport south of the city, medical sources told AFP.

Fighting on Thursday appeared to be concentrated around the city's airport, the first strategic target the Arab coalition is trying to seize before battling for control of the vital port facilities.

Aid groups warned a major humanitarian catastrophe was looming as fighting drew closer to Hodeida.

An official of the United Arab Emirates, part of the coalition, told Reuters on Thursday that France had agreed to provide minesweeping support for the operation and that UAE intelligence indicated that the Houthi rebels, who control the city, had mined the port.

The officials said that if government forces capture the Kilo 16 Road they will trap the rebels in Hodeida and the western coast and prevent them from receiving supplies from the capital.

"It is the lifeline of the country", said Lise Grande, the top United Nations humanitarian official in Yemen, to my colleagues.

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Abdullah al-Rabeeah, head of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Aid and Relief Centre, in a press conference Wednesday night sought to allay the fears of the global community.

Aid groups have warned for months that an assault on the port could disrupt the flow of relief supplies to Yemeni civilians, including an estimated eight million people who are at risk of starvation.

Ahmed al-Kawkabani, a Yemeni who leads a force known as the Tohama Brigade, told the Associated Press that his forces are now positioned in Dawar al-Hodeida, Arabic for "Hodeida roundabout". About a quarter of a million people are in danger of injury or death in an urban assault, the United Nations said.

The current offensive on Hudaidah, the third largest city in Yemen, is the biggest battle in the three-year war between the Saudi led coalition and HouthiAnsarullah movement.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande has announced that "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything -even their lives", if there is a military attack on Hudaydah.

A military official told AFP on Friday the government alliance had approached to within just two kilometres of Hodeida's global airport, just inland from the port. He said, "The Yemeni portis a lifeline for the delivery of aid and the Coalition's air attacks can kill many more people over time through starvation and hunger when damaging such civilian infrastructure".

The internal military conflict between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government recently entered its fourth year, aggravating the suffering of Yemenis and deepening the world's worst humanitarian crisis in the country.

In March 2015 Saudi Arabia and eight other mainly Sunni Muslim Arab states launched a military campaign to restore Mr Hadi's government after becoming alarmed by the rise of the Houthi group which they see as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy.

About 80 percent of humanitarian relief goods for the country are transported through the port. The council also voiced deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The rebels have been raining ballistic missiles down on Saudi cities from across the border.

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