With a "green light" from the Trump administration and essential military support from the United States government, Saudi-led forces plowed ahead with an assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Wednesday, brushing aside dire warnings from worldwide humanitarian organizations and a small group of American lawmakers that an attack on the key aid harbor could spark a full-blown starvation and endanger millions of lives.
The officials said government forces have headed to the eastern coast aiming at cutting off a rebel supply line between Hodeida and Sanaa.
United Nations resident and humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen Lise Grande, speaking by telephone from Sanaa, said that her office was drawing up options to ensure aid delivery to millions of Yemenis "in case of a possible siege of Hodeidah", including a humanitarian airlift.
The Saudi-led coalition has accused the rebels of using Hudaydah to smuggle in Iranian weapons.
Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Sunni Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015 to restore Mr Hadi's government.
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Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.
"The liberation of Hudaydah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas", the exiled government said.
The UN and other aid groups already had pulled their worldwide staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumoured assault.
It will also have a direct impact on hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, given its strategic importance as a key entry point for humanitarian, food and medical supplies to Yemen.
"The battle for Hodeidah will nearly certainly result in a huge loss of civilian life and damage to vital infrastructure", said Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director for Save the Children.
Fierce fighting is reported as the coalition tries to take the city from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, but there are great risks to civilIans.
"The Houthi militia have attacked commercial and military ships, including ships belonging to the Kingdom, the UAE, the U.S., using advanced anti-shipping systems smuggled into Yemen, such as unmanned vessels".
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Ahead of the offensive, the UAE sought to project unity with the Yemeni government after months of strained relations - most recently over its military activities on the Yemeni island of Socotra.
The embattled Yemeni president had visited the UAE in a rare move on Tuesday.
The US position on Hodeidah continues to shift wildly, however.
Hadi, who lives in exile in Riyadh, was also seeking to fix relations with Abu Dhabi, which has sidelined him over the past year by backing rival forces.
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. "Their total support for Saudi Arabia and its allies is making the world's worst humanitarian crisis even more severe".
Analysts say anti-rebel forces are determined to drive the Houthis from the key port, having failed to score any major victories since the first year of the war. UNICEF said an attack would put approximately 300,000 children in the city at risk.
"UNICEF has pre-prepositioned supplies in Hodeida: over 20,000 basic hygiene kits (one kit per family)". He also claimed that an estimated 15 percent of global commerce passes through the Red Sea.
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