Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition started an assault on Wednesday on Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, which is held by Iranian-backed Houthis, according to Al-Arabiya television.
The battle for Hodeidah is expected to be by far the biggest of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iranian-backed Houthis.
The news came Wednesday night after US military officials said that the US is helping the Saudi-led coalition choose targets that will minimize civilian casualties.
The Trump administration last week was reportedly considering helping the UAE, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, in an assault on Hodeidah.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and aid groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.
“We fear that a prolonged attack or siege on Hodeidah could be catastrophic for civilians,” Lise Grande, the UN’s head Yemen humanitarian coordinator, previously told The Wall Street Journal, adding that 250,000 of the city’s 400,000 people could be killed.
The US also helps the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise, Major Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesperson, previously told Business Insider.
Green Berets are even reportedly helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in the war-torn country.
The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of conducting indiscriminate and unlawful airstrikes, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into Yemen, according to Human Rights Watch. At the same time, the Houthis have repeatedly fired artillery at Yemeni cities, missiles at Saudi Arabia (most recently on June 9), been accused of using child soldiers, and more.