NEW YORK - The United Nations called Thursday on the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen not to bomb the rebel-held port of Hodeida, a key entry point for aid to the war-torn country.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said Hodeida on the Red Sea, which is under the control of Iran-backed Huthi rebels, is a vital lifeline for Yemeni civilians threatened with starvation.
He said the coalition, which intervened in Yemen two years ago against the Shiite rebels, needed to take humanitarian concerns into account while pursuing its campaign.
"We continue to advocate to the Saudi-led coalition that the attack on the port of Hodeida and the city itself is not necessary," McGoldrick told reporters in Jordan's capital Amman.
"This port is the most essential, the most crucial part of our ability to feed people and get medical services" into Yemen, he said.
"The Hodeida port is the only port that we can use to serve the bulk of the population in need," McGoldrick said.
The coalition intervened on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognised government in March 2015 after the Huthi rebels seized control of large parts of the country, which sits on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, has since suffered a downward spiral in living conditions, with the UN warning earlier this year that its population was threatened with widespread famine.
The UN has appealed for $2.1 billion in international assistance for Yemen and McGoldrick said he hoped for commitments during an aid conference in Geneva next week.
"The amount that we are asking for is for life saving, is to address the very basic needs of the Yemeni people," he said.