The Latest: Yemen’s exiled govt: Hodeida is milestone battle

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on the war in Yemen (all times local):

6:20 a.m.

Yemen’s exiled government says their forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault on Hodeida only after “exhausting all peaceful and political means.”

The statement on the government-controlled SABA news agency early Wednesday morning called the battle for Hodeida “a milestone in our struggle to get Yemen back from the militias.”

Exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and many of his advisers now live in Saudi Arabia after Shiite rebels known as Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

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5:45 a.m.

Saudi-owned satellite news channels have announced the start of the Saudi-led coalition’s assault on Hodeida.

Citing sources within the military, Dubai-based Al Arabiya said the battle began early Wednesday morning.

Al Arabiya is believed to be at least partially owned by Saudi Arabia’s government.

There was no immediate word from state media in either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, which lead a coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government.

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5:30 a.m.

Gunfire has erupted near Yemen’s port city of Hodeida as a Saudi-led coalition’s deadline expired for Shiite rebels there to withdraw.

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 clearly could be heard.

Forces loyal to Yemen’s exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier told French newspaper Le Figaro the deadline for a withdraw from Hodeida by Shiite rebels known as Houthis expired early Wednesday morning.

The United Nations and other aid groups had pulled their international staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumored assault.

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