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Social media users shared video of what appeared to be a convoy of vehicles approaching the crucial port city early Wednesday morning. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire could be heard clearly in the background.

As part of the plan, the two coalition states aim to establish a shipping lane to Hodeidah from the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, and Jizan, a city in southern Saudi Arabia, officials told a news conference in Riyadh.

A view of cranes, damaged by air strikes, at the container terminal of the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen November 30, 2017.

"The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas", the exiled government said in a separate statement carried by state-run Yemeni media. Almost 18 months since he last stepped foot in the country, Hadi returned to the southern Yemeni city of Aden to reportedly support his forces against the Houthis.

"This coalition will start to operate an air and sea bridge, as well as land, to transport aid and medical supplies, food, shelter and fuel other basic necessities to Hodeida province", he told reporters. The Saudi-led coalition has been criticized for its airstrikes killing civilians. Over 150 ballistic missiles in all have been fired into the kingdom by the Houthis, according to Saudi officials. He added that Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen all along and "these efforts included the recent contribution of $1.5 billion to United Nations relief efforts in Yemen, the largest in United Nations history, as well as initiatives to enhance the capacity of ports throughout Yemen including facilitiating the entry of cranes into Hodeidah".

In a statement on Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi strongly condemned the aerial and naval strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition on Yemen's Red Sea port of Hudaydah.

"Under worldwide humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen.

The war in Yemen has displaced 2 million more and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

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Three years of Saudi-led bombardment and a blockade of Yemen has led to the near-collapse of the country.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Sunni Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015 to restore Mr Hadi's government.

It reported that the coalition forces made up of troops from Saudi, UAE and Sudanese army, as well as local Yemeni forces from the southern separatist groups and a brigade commanded by General Tareq Saleh, a nephew of slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The worldwide aid group warned of a "high risk of a second outbreak" should water supplies be disrupted.

The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt is against corruption and defending Yemen from invaders.

The TV station said the legitimate forces gathering in Al-Durayhemi district and nearby areas, around 10 km south of Hodeidah.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said members of the invading coalition as well as the United States and Britain must be held accountable for the raid and a consequent escalation of humanitarian crisis. The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has said the world body is talking to both sides to de-escalate. "We hope we don't need to use them", UNICEF Yemen representative Meritxell Relano said on her Twitter account. Grande on Monday said while the United Nations had relocated global staff from the city, numerous local staff had chosen to stay to try to continue United Nations programs.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington Khaled bin Salman also on Tuesday said the retaking of Hodeida was critical, tweeting that the Iran-backed rebels posed a "growing threat" to maritime security.


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