Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh gives a speech addressing his supporters during a rally as his General People's Congress party, marks 35 years since its founding, at Sabaeen Square in the capital Sanaa on August 24, 2017. 
The rally comes amid reports that armed supporters of Saleh and the head of the country's Huthi rebels, who have been allied against the Saudi-backed government since 2014, had spread throughout the capital as tensions are rising between the two sides. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS        (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh gives a speech addressing his supporters during a rally as his General People's Congress party, marks 35 years since its founding, at Sabaeen Square in the capital Sanaa on August 24, 2017. The rally comes amid reports that armed supporters of Saleh and the head of the country's Huthi rebels, who have been allied against the Saudi-backed government since 2014, had spread throughout the capital as tensions are rising between the two sides. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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TOPSHOT - A photo taken on March 18, 2018, shows a Yemeni child looking out at buildings that were damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad AL-BASHA (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty Images)
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~From journalist Hakim Almasmari in Sanaa.  Opening line by CNN's Dan Wright in London.
~Background from excellent digital write by Kevin Liptak, Elise Labott, and Zachary Cohen
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times/Redux
#NEWS: Girl in iconic NYT image depicting Yemen famine dies ~ Yemen Health Ministry Amal Hussein, a 7-year-old girl whose iconic image was captured by the New York Times has died, the Yemeni Health Ministry has confirmed. The stark photo of her emaciated body is one of the searing images of the Yemen's civil war. A week after the image was published, and amid the international furor over the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the participants in Yemen's 3-year civil war to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days". ~From journalist Hakim Almasmari in Sanaa. Opening line by CNN's Dan Wright in London. ~Background from excellent digital write by Kevin Liptak, Elise Labott, and Zachary Cohen
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Story highlights

Trump will ask Saudis to let supplies reach "people who desperately need it"

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump said his administration would be calling on Saudi Arabia to end its blockade of Yemeni ports in order to allow critically needed supplies to reach the besieged population of the country, which has been ravaged by civil war and famine.

“I have directed officials in my Administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it,” Trump said in his brief written statement Wednesday. “This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately.”

The statement did not indicate who would make the calls. CNN reached out to the State Department on Wednesday, but did not immediately receive a response.

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than two years. They closed the ports last month after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile toward an airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, thereby blocking shipments of food and medicine and triggering broad international outrage.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has taken steps to lift the blockade, allowing initial shipments of supplies to reach the country last week.

The US welcomed the decision at the time, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying in a statement that the US looked forward to “additional steps that will facilitate the unfettered flow of humanitarian and commercial goods from all ports of entry to the points of need.”

“The magnitude of suffering in Yemen requires all parties to this conflict to focus on assistance to those in need,” she continued. “All sides must support a political process with facilitating humanitarian relief as the top priority.”

Sanders reiterated the Trump administration’s general support for the Saudi-led coalition, and condemned Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for “aggression and blatant violations of international law” in Yemen.

Yemen’s civil war has caused a desperate famine in the country, as well as a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people.