Britain calls for UN Security Council to back ceasefire in Yemen

Britain calls for UN Security Council to back ceasefire in Yemen

Three-quarters of Yemen's 29 million people are food insecure, 1.8 million children suffer from malnutrition and 400,000 children under age 5 are at risk of death from starvation.

Oxfam's head of advocacy, Toni Pearce, called British policy towards Yemen "irresponsible and incoherent", three years into a war which has sparked the world's largest humanitarian crisis in numbers of people and pushed the country to the brink of starvation. Every 10 minutes a child dies of preventable diseases.

He said the figures were "a reminder for all of us to realise how dire the situation has become".

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), appealed for an immediate ceasefire.

The bloodshed comes despite growing worldwide pressure to end a years-long conflict that has left thousands dead.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi say wresting control of Hodeidah would deliver a blow to the Houthis, who still control the most populated areas of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, by cutting their main supply line and force them to the negotiating table.

Yemen has been at war since March 2015 when Houthi rebels occupied northern regions and forced the government into exile.

According to the World Health Organization, almost 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, though some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

Despite a high-profile modernisation drive aimed at improving Saudi Arabia's image and attracting foreign investment, rights groups have detailed a crackdown on activists, increase in executions and discrimination against the Shiite minority.

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Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition drove closer to the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Sunday in a renewed offensive to recapture it from Iran-backed Houthi militias.

More than 50 Houthi rebels and 20 government soldiers were killed and scores of others injured from both warring sides within the 24 hours, according to local medics.

"This is the first time clashes have reached this point (the university)", one pro-coalition Yemeni military source said. "Ending the war is not enough", he said, referring to a more-than-three-year conflict that pits the government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, against Houthi rebels.

Loyalist forces lost 13 men, other medical sources said in Aden and Mokha, government-controlled cities where dead bodies were transported.

Hodeida port is the entry point for more than 70 per cent of imports into the impoverished country, which is teetering on the edge of starvation.

Later on Wednesday, Yemeni security and medical officials said an airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition killed five civilians and wounded eight more just south of Hodeida.

According to the World Health Organisation, almost 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 2015.

Mr Hunt echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who on Friday appealed for an end to the war and said recent political developments had created signs of hope for a settlement.

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