Cairo: Egypt's president said Saturday that securing the Bab Al Mandab access to the Red Sea off Yemen's coast is a top priority, nine days after Cairo joined a Saudi-led offensive against Yemeni rebels.
"Securing navigation in the Red Sea and protecting Bab Al Mandab Strait is a top priority for Egypt's national security," Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said in a statement.
The Red Sea is at the southern end of the Suez Canal, through which much of the world's maritime trade passes.
A Saudi-led coalition of more than 10 countries, including Egypt, launched an offensive against Yemen's Houthi rebels on March 26 after the militia advanced to the southern province of Aden.
Egypt is taking part in the campaign with its air force and navy, and has pledged to commit ground troops if needed.
Yemen's main southern city of Aden, a last foothold of supporters of self-exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, has been shaken by more than a week of fierce clashes between Houthi rebels and loyalist militia.Self exiled Hadi- As I have said all along, repeatedly. Hadi quit. Hadi left. Hadi was not forced out by the Houthis. No one should even be suggesting anything other then the fact that Hadi stepped down. His hand forced by his own government
The strait, only 32 kilometres (20 miles) wide, separates southwestern Yemen from the small African country of Djibouti.
Control of it by a hostile power could severely threaten maritime traffic passing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Russia presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for a humanitarian pause in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, diplomats said.
Russia called the emergency meeting of the 15-member council amid growing alarm over the rising civilian death toll from the fighting in Yemen.
The one-page-text distributed to the council would call on the Saudi-led coalition to halt air strikes to allow the evacuation of foreigners, a Security Council diplomat told AFP. The text did not specify the duration of the pause.Russia has had difficulty evacuating their people- Saudi Arabia also struck the Russian consulate
The measure made no reference to previous calls by the Security Council for the Houthis to pull back and return to political talks, the diplomat said.
Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov told reporters as he headed into the meeting that the pause would ensure that "when we evacuate people, to make sure it's secure and safe."
UN aid chief Valerie Amos said Thursday she was "extremely concerned" about the fate of civilians trapped in fierce fighting after aid agencies reported that 519 people had been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in two weeks.
The UN children's agency this week said at least 62 children had been killed and 30 injured over the past week in Yemen, and that more of them were being recruited as child soldiers.
British Deputy Ambassador Peter Wilson said his country continues to "support the Saudi-led action in Yemen in response to a legitimate request from President Hadi."
Earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Saturday for an immediate 24-hour halt to the hostilities to deliver life-saving medical aid into the country where it said the humanitarian situation was dire.
"All air, land and sea routes must be opened without delay for at least 24 hours to enable help to reach people cut off after more than a week of intense air strikes and fierce ground fighting nationwide," the ICRC said in a statement.
Low on medicines
More than 48 tonnes of medicines and surgical kits - enough to treat up to 3,000 people - are ready to leave for Yemen by boat and plane, pending clearance, the statement said. An ICRC surgical team of four is on standby in Djibouti to go to Aden.
Hospitals and clinics are running low on medicines and equipment, according to the ICRC, which has 300 aid workers in Yemen, including foreigners. Many areas suffer fuel and water shortages, and food stocks are being depleted, it said.
"We urgently need an immediate halt to the fighting, to allow families in the worst affected areas, such as Aden, to venture out to get food and water, or to seek medical care," said Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC's operations in the Near and Middle East.
"For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days."
Residents of central Aden, the southern city where Houthi fighters and their allies have been battling forces loyal to Hadi, said on Saturday some areas had been without water or electricity for two days.
"How can we work? This is unacceptable. How long can people live without water or electricity?" said Mohammad Fara'a, a resident of Aden's central Crater district, which was briefly captured on Thursday by Houthi forces.
Another Crater resident, Hassan Abdallah, said people were resorting to a long-disused well at one of the city's mosques to get water.
In the adjacent Mualla neighbourhood, Abdu Hassan said his family was using up the last water in their tank.
"When that runs out, God knows what we will do," he said.