Fighting rages around key port city in Yemen

Pauline Gross
June 14, 2018

Fierce fighting has been reported after pro-government forces in Yemen, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, launched an offensive on the rebel-held city of Hudaydah, a key port for aid supplies.

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

The humanitarian assistance being sent by global organizations have been looted by the Houthis in control of Hodeida port, while also preventing goods and oil derivatives from entry, causing famine, starvation and poverty inside the province, the report said.

Coalition sources say 18 air strikes were carried out on Houthi positions on the outskirts of Hudaydah on Wednesday.

The sources said UAE-backed Yemeni forces - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh - were "at the doors" of Hodeidah airport. The port is some 150 kilometres southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital held by the Houthis since they swept into the city in September 2014.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Sunni Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015 to restore Mr Hadi's government.

With logistical support from the USA, the Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out attacks inside Yemen since March 2015, killing at least 10,000 people, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Yemen's exiled government "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida", it said in a statement.

The UN on Monday withdrew all of its worldwide staff from Hodeida ahead of the impending assault, warning that any offensive would put millions of lives at risk.

The offensive is controversial as Hodeida serves as the key entry point for supplies into a country teetering on the brink of starvation.

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.

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"The liberation of the port is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia and will secure marine shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait and cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood", Yemen's Arab-backed government-in-exile said in a statement.

"People are scared. The warships are terrifying and warplanes are flying overhead all the time", university student Amina, 22, who lives near the port, told Reuters by telephone.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the Houthis on Tuesday that the "final hour" is approaching in Hodeidah.

The embattled Yemeni president had visited the UAE in a rare move on Tuesday.

Four Emirati soldiers were killed in Wednesday's assault, the United Arab Emirates' state-run news agency said.

The port has been used by Iran to smuggle weapons that have sustained the Houthis' aggression.

He said Saudi Arabia received 561,911 Yemeni refugees and in response to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, provided $66.7 million to combat cholera in Yemen.

Analysts say anti-rebel forces are determined to drive the Huthis from Hodeida, having failed to score any major military victories since the first year of the war. Effort to kill Trump tariffs blocked Trump stokes confusion with pledge to halt Korean war games Five takeaways from Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWith caveats, Republicans praise Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un Pavlich: Pompeo: The man for the job on North Korea Five takeaways from Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un MORE on the eve of the offensive expressing "grave alarm". 40,000 additional kits are in the pipeline. Meritxell Relano, UNICEF's Resident Representative in Yemen, believes the country's entire population could be affected by the attack.

The liberation of Hodeidah is critical to secure roughly 15 per cent of worldwide trade in the Red Sea, on which the global economy depends.

Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as Iranian proxies, but the rebels deny receiving military support from Tehran.

Other reports by GizPress

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