Yemeni government forces continued to push into the strategic port city of Hodeida, seizing the main hospital in heavy fighting on Saturday, while their Saudi-led supporters of the coalition made a bold face to US gas stations.

A loyalist official said mortar rounds "fell like rain" in the streets as troops ravaged the rebel-run mines and snipers to control the main hospital in the city of about 600,000.

The rebels have fiercely resisted the government's advance towards the city's vital docks, which are home to 80 percent of Yemen's commercial imports and almost all United Nations-supervised humanitarian aid.

The suspension of US aid for refueling coalition aircraft is halted as Washington's support for the war effort intensifies its control in the face of international outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

The disputed Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen has sparked growing international turmoil following the coalition's international air raids, which killed numerous civilians, many of them children.

The reinforced coalition-backed raid in Hodeida, which claimed at least 382 fighters this month, faces a humanitarian disaster in spite of alerts from the aid organization in the event of a protracted battle for the city.

According to the UN agencies, around 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation and many depend on international aid. Therefore, the port of Hodeida must remain open and undamaged.

Yemeni officials said on Saturday that pro-government forces had conquered the hospital on May 22.

Amnesty International had already accused the Houthis of having intentionally "militarized" the facility after they set up snipers on their rooftops.

Two days after the loyalist troops marched into Hodeida's residential district for the first time, fierce battles raged east of the city as air-raid-backed pro-government forces and helicopters sought to penetrate deeper into the city.

"The battles turn into street fighting," a loyalist official said, adding that on Saturday, the pro-government forces had advanced one kilometer along a main road into town.

Hodeida resident Lubna, who asked that her full name not be used for fear of the consequences, said that "the noise of the Apache helicopters, the artillery and the shots" was incessant.

Houthi forces used artillery to defeat emerging loyalist troops, sometimes firing from residential areas. They feared that this could mean that civilians pay the highest price.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on Saturday voiced outrage over the "indomitable toll" of battling an already "deeply frightened and starved" population.

Bachelet urged the coalition Houthis "and all those who provide arms to the conflicting parties to take immediate steps to end the suffering of the civilian population in Yemen."

– "Worst time for children" –

Mariam Aldogani, coordinator of Save the Children, spoke of the coalition's heavy air raids.

"There have been more than 15 air strikes in the last 30 minutes … This is the worst time for Hodeida kids," she said.

In an obvious attempt to save face, Saudi Arabia tried to label its refueling during the flight as his own, not Washington's.

The Pentagon had equipped about 20 percent of the coalition aircraft that flew missions over Yemen, with refueling options.

Media controlled by Saudi Arabia indicated that the coalition had the ability to make up the deficit.

Saudi Arabian Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath Television reported that the kingdom has 23 of its own refueling Yemeni aircraft while the United Arab Emirates has six aircraft.

But the analysts said the US move would limit the coalition's ability to carry out bombing missions.

Andreas Krieg, a professor at the School of Security Studies at King's College in London, said the decision was "significant" as refueling in Washington was the main operational role of the war.

However, loyalist Colonel Sadiq Duwaid said the ruling would "not affect" the Hodeida coalition attack that would continue "until the Huthi militias surrender."

– "Nothing but empty talk"

The fight for Hodeida is becoming increasingly intense, although Pentagon leader James Mattis called for a truce and negotiation between Yemen's warring factions within 30 days last month.

Since then, the United Nations has pushed this deadline back to the end of the year.

In a March issue issued by The Washington Post, the head of the Supreme Revolutionary Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, stated that the escalation of the Hodeida offensive showed that Mattis' truce was "nothing but empty talk". ,

"The recent statements are trying to mislead the world … The United States aims to end the conflict – but they have decided to protect a corrupt ally," Huthi wrote.

The article was furious with Yemeni government officials who accused the Post of providing a platform for a "war criminal."

The Houthis have been controlling Hodeida since 2014, when they flooded the capital, Sanaa, and drove much of the rest of the country, triggering Saudi Arabia's intervention the following year.

Since then, the rebels have been expelled from the entire south and most of the Red Sea.

In Hodeida, Saada, the Huthi stronghold in northern Yemen, and Sanaa, at least 110 air strikes were carried out between October 31 and November 6, the United Nations Human Rights Office said.

In Yemen, a total of 17,640 victims have been reported among the victims since March 2015, with the majority of victims being 10,852 caused by coalition air strikes.

burs-mah-ac / hc / del


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