Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Saudi-led coalition launches attack on Yemen’s ‘humanitarian lifeline’ of Hodeidah

Saudi-led coalition launches attack on Yemen’s ‘humanitarian lifeline’ of Hodeidah Saudi-led coalition launches attack on Yemen’s ‘humanitarian lifeline’ of Hodeidah
Melinda Barton | 14 June, 2018, 04:41

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV announced the attack, citing military sources.

Bombardment was heavy, with one aid official reporting 30 strikes in 30 minutes.

"If the port closed, even for a day, then the number of people at risk of starvation will increase because no food will come into the country", she said by phone from the capital Sanaa.

Sudanese forces fighting alongside the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, June 12, 2018.

A Yemeni anti-Houthi military official said the alliance had brought to bear a 21,000-strong force. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorised to brief journalists.

Yemen's biggest port, Hodeidah is the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, which lives in Houthi territory.

Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi's brother and 16 more senior members of the rebel movement may have been killed when the Saudi-led coalition struck their meeting ground in the militia-controlled port of Hodeidah in western Yemen, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media outlet reported on Wednesday.

"The Houthi's continued obstruction with regards to Hodeidah is due to their use of the port to raise revenues through looting, extortion, and illegal taxation imposed on commercial ships to finance and sustain their military aggression against Yemen and neighboring countries". A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015.

The UAE foreign ministry and government communication office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.

The U.S. has provided the coalition with logistical support, but it's unclear what position the Americans will take if the coalition launches a full-scale attack on Hodeida.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their worldwide staff from Hudaida ahead of the expected assault.

And just to the north is the Ras Isa oil terminal - which served the Marib oilfields and was the country's main export terminal - and the nearby port of Saleef.

Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster. Robert Mardini, regional head for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the attack was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation".

"Under global humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.

He said the U.N. Security Council must act to secure a cease-fire before the people of Hodeida "suffer the same fate as those in Aleppo, Mosul or Raqqa".

Human rights groups say airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition have killed and wounded thousands of civilians, often in indiscriminate attacks.

Yemeni residents in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida say the Saudi-led coalition has dropped leaflets advising them to stay away from military and security points, and to stay in their homes, amid the coalition's assault.

"More than two-thirds of the people of Yemen count on the food that is imported through the port of Hudaida", Veldwijk said.

It estimates 600,000 people live in the area, and in a worst-case scenario a battle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cutting off millions from aid and supplies.

He said "aid operations will be severely challenged in the event of sustained fighting in densely populated urban areas" and stressed that people trying to flee conflict areas "must be allowed to do so without any hindrance". "This is possibly what we're most concerned about".

The new United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted that he was "extremely concerned" by the violence, calling on all parties to exercise restraint. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations might have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks.

For the last three years the Saudi-led coalition hasn't made any major advances.