Saudi-led coalition lets four fuel ships dock at Yemen's Hodeidah port -sources

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A coast guard walks past a ship docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen January 5, 2019. Picture taken January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

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DUBAI, March 24 (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition has allowed four fuel ships to dock at Yemen's Red Sea port of Hodeidah, two sources familiar with the matter said, after the Houthi group said it would only agree to a ceasefire proposal if an air and sea blockade were lifted.

Four vessels, including two carrying a total of 45,000 tonnes of gas oil, a ship loaded with 5,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas and a fourth tanker with 22,700 tonnes of fuel oil have received clearance from the coalition, the sources said.

As of Wednesday morning, the four vessels had not yet begun moving towards Hodeidah port, which is controlled by the Iran-aligned Houthi group battling the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

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The deputy transport minister of Yemen's Saudi-backed government, Nasser Sharif, said on Twitter that a number of oil ships had been allowed to the port of Hodeidah to ease the humanitarian situation. He did not give further details.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Houthi chief negotiator, said: "The provision of fuel, food, medical and basic goods is a humanitarian and legal right for the Yemeni people. We do not accept any military or political conditions for receiving them."

The blockade of Yemeni ports has been one of the main causes of the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

Coalition warships off Hodeidah were holding up 14 fuel tankers as of March 23 even though they had secured U.N clearance, United Nations data showed. Some have been waiting six months to dock.

Four other ships left without docking after waiting months.

Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that has been fighting the Houthis since 2015, offered the group on Monday a ceasefire deal which would also include reopening Sanaa airport and allow fuel and food imports through Hodeidah port.

The Houthis said the Saudi offer fell short of their demand for a complete lifting of the air and sea blockade, but that the group would continue to talk to the kingdom, the United States and mediator Oman in pursuit of a peace deal. read more

On Tuesday the Houthis launched a drone attack on an airport in southern Saudi Arabia. read more

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Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohammed Ghobari

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