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UAE announces pause in offensive on Yemen's Hodeida

Essa Ahmed, AFP | A displaced Yemeni boy who fled battles in Hodeida walks to collect water from a well in the northern district of Abs, under control by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Hajjah province, on June 26, 2018.

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced a pause in the offensive it is backing against Huthi rebels in Yemen's port city of Hodeida, to give a chance to UN peace efforts.

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"We welcome continuing efforts by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to achieve an unconditional Huthi withdrawal from Hodeida city and port," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

"We have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored. We hope he will succeed."

The announcement comes after Griffiths met with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose troops are battling the Huthi rebels for control of the Red Sea port city, earlier this week.

Hadi demanded a full rebel withdrawal from the city, which has been the target of a weeks-long military offensive by the Yemeni government and its regional allies, led by the UAE on the ground.

Diplomatic sources have said Griffiths has been pushing for the Iran-backed Huthis to cede control of the port to the United Nations and there have been some reports they have agreed.

The Huthis have controlled the western city of Hodeida, and its port, since 2014, when they drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen.

On June 13, the UAE and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, launched a massive military operation -- dubbed "Golden Victory" -- to drive the rebels out of the Hodeida port.

Some 70 percent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine, flow through the port of Hodeida.

Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis.

The United Nations has called Yemen the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

(AFP)

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