Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Saudi and UAE-backed forces begin offensive on Yemen's Hodeidah

Saudi and UAE-backed forces begin offensive on Yemen's Hodeidah

The United Nations and aids groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Hudaydah is Yemen's biggest Red Sea port and serves as the lifeline for the majority of the country's population.

"We fear that a prolonged attack or siege on Hodeidah could be catastrophic for civilians", Lise Grande, the UN's head Yemen humanitarian coordinator, previously told the Wall Street Journal, adding that 250,000 of the city's 400,000 people could be killed.

The member countries of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen are aiming to improve the humanitarian conditions across the areas to be liberated in Al Hodeidah city, to be on par with the other areas that have been liberated from the grip of the Houthis in Yemen's Red Sea Coast and to help the Yemeni people to overcome the dire conditions caused by the terrorist practices of the elements of the militias.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel later acknowledged the offensive, claiming rebel forces hit a Saudi coalition ship near Hodeida with two missiles.

Yemen's exiled government "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hudaida", it said in a statement. The city and surrounding area are home to 600,000 people, and the port is the main route for food and aid to reach most Yemenis, 8.4 million of whom are on the verge of starvation. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the United States. This has made it by far the most important port for humanitarian aid, with estimates that as much as 70% of aid comes through the port.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the USA continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition.

A man carries the body of a child recovered from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa Yemen
A man carries the body of a child recovered from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa Yemen

"It's providing any intel, or anything we can give to show no-fire areas where there are civilians, where there's mosques, hospitals, that sort of thing - [and] aerial refuelling, so nobody feels like I've got to drop the bomb and get back now", he said.

The alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven from the capital Sanaa and into exile in 2014.

The Houthis, with roots in a Zaidi Shi'ite minority that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, deny they are pawns of Iran.

The coalition says one of the main justifications for its intervention is to protect Red Sea shipping, which brings Middle East oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal.

Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for worldwide cooperation, has said if the port is wrested from the Houthis, the coalition could ease controls, aimed at denying the group arms, and so improve the flow of goods and aid into Yemen. At the same time, the Houthis have repeatedly fired artillery at Yemeni cities, missiles at Saudi Arabia (most recently on June 9), been accused of using child soldiers, and more.

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