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Saudi coalition strikes kill 250 Houthi rebels in heavy fighting

By Susan McFarland
Saudi coalition strikes kill 250 Houthi rebels in heavy fighting
A Yemeni soldier stands guard as people bury bodies of Houthi rebels in the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition targeted Houthis in Yemen's critical Red Sea port Wednesday. Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE

June 13 (UPI) -- A coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen's port city of Hudaida Wednesday, killing more than 250 Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

The attack included airstrikes backed by ground operations, and led to the capture of 140 Houthi soldiers.

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The fighting Wednesday led to the closure of Hudaida's Red Sea port, which will affect food and medicine deliveries to Yemen. The Red Sea port is the only port under rebel control and the coalition says Houthis are using it to smuggle weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he has talked with leaders of the United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi coalition force, and made clear the desire to address security concerns "while preserving the free flow of humanitarian aid and life-saving commercial imports."

Wednesday's was the largest battle of Yemen's three-year civil war between the Saudi alliance and Houthi rebels. More than 10,000 people have died and 3 million displaced in that time.

"The liberation of the port is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia," Yemen's exiled government said of the attack.

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The United Nations considers Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people in need of assistance as malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed and sickened thousands through the years.

"As many as 250,000 people may lose everything -- even their lives," the U.N. said.

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