Published: Sun, November 11, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Fighting in Yemen city of Hodeidah 'reaches residential streets'

Fighting in Yemen city of Hodeidah 'reaches residential streets'

"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. government, to use the coalition's own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

"Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen", the statement read.

A source at Hodeidah's military hospital told the AFP news agency that dozens of wounded rebels were transferred to hospitals in the provinces of Sanaa and Ibb, further inland.

The move also comes at tense time for Washington and Riyadh following the death of US -based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month.

United Nations bodies warn that an all-out attack on the Red Sea port, an entry point for 80 percent of Yemen's food imports and aid relief, could trigger a starvation in the impoverished country.

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The United Nations has put the civilian death toll at 23 and has said that about 445,000 civilians have been internally displaced.

Yemeni government forces backed by the coalition pressed further into Hodeida, seizing its main hospital in heavy fighting on Saturday, as they shrugged off an end to USA refuelling support. Worldwide aid agencies warn any disruption to the port could sever that crucial lifeline.

The U.S.is providing the Saudis with intelligence and aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes, and has sought to give more training to Saudi pilots to avoid killing civilians.

Mattis acknowledged "continued bipartisan interest from Congress", and said the Trump administration is "appreciative of the continued dialogue we have had with key members on this issue".

"The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has certainly put more of a spotlight on the actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen", she told Al Jazeera.

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A new round of peace talks to end the war, which has killed more than 56,000 people according to a recent estimate, was scheduled to take place in Sweden in November but had been pushed back to late December.

At a news conference in NY on Thursday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the effort to bring the Saudi-led coalition, backed by the USA, and Houthi rebels together this month under the auspices of Special Envoy Martin Griffiths had been postponed.

The intensified battle for Hodeida comes despite Pentagon chief James Mattis calling last month for a ceasefire and negotiations between Yemen´s warring parties within 30 days. "United States participation in this conflict is unauthorized and unconstitutional and must end completely", he said in a statement. The Post first reported the Trump administration's desire to end the refueling.

Fears for the safety of civilians have been rising since loyalist forces renewed an operation to take the city, which has been under the control of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2014.

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