FILE - In this Friday Sept. 28, 2018 file photo, a fisherman paddles his boat past destroyed buildings on the coast of the port city of Hodeida, Yemen. Amnesty International said warned late Wednesday. Nov. 7, 2018 that Yemen’s rebels have taken up positions on a hospital rooftop in the contested Red Sea city of Hodeida that a Saudi-led coalition is trying to capture. This raises concerns the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, plan to use the patients at the Hodeida hospital as human shields to ward off airstrikes from the coalition. Amnesty is urging the warring sides to protect civilians. (Hani Mohammed, File/Associated Press)
CAIRO — Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the Hodeida area have been forced to flee amid a Saudi-led coalition offensive to take the key Red Sea port city from Shiite rebels, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Friday, as fierce battles continue to rage in the area.
Some 445,000 of the Hodeida governorate’s residents have fled since June, a figure that underscores the dire situation in and around the city that serves as the main entry point for food and aid, the UNHCR said. The governorate’s population is around 3 million, according to figures from the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The UNHCR also expressed concern over the safety of those trapped in Hodeida as the intensified military operations “are increasingly confining populations and cutting off exit routes.” Figures on those still in Hodeida are difficult to gauge, the agency added.
Yemeni government forces supported by the coalition’s air and naval forces continue to engage in heavy fighting with the rebels, known as Houthis. The fighting has killed dozens of combatants from both sides, with dozens of military vehicles destroyed or burning along the front lines.
In a Friday statement, Yemen’s internationally recognized government based in the southern city of Aden said its forces are advancing toward the north and west of Hodeida and across all fronts with cover from the coalition.
Also on Friday, the World Health Organization said the violence in Hodeida is in close proximity to the city’s health facilities, impeding their ability to function and restricting the movement of health staff, patients and ambulances.
The Saudi-led coalition’s latest push toward Hodeida comes as Yemen’s civil war is a few months away from entering its fourth year. The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 with the aim of defeating the Iran-aligned rebels and to restore the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But the coalition has recently come under mounting international pressure to end the war that has resulted in what the U.N. says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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