Saudi-Led Alliance Gears up for Assault on Key Yemeni Port City
Saudi-Led Alliance Gears up for Assault on Key Yemeni Port City
Yemen troops mass in bid to retake key port
13 June, 2018, 17:40
The battle for Hudaydah, which is held by the Houthi movement, is expected to be by far the biggest of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-backed Houthis.
Other aid officials warn an attack on the port would set back chances of a political settlement and make it hard for the flow of aid to continue.
"The worldwide community must pressure the Houthis to evacuate Hodeidah & leave the port intact", UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
The Red Sea port is the only port under Houthi control, situated about 150km southwest of the capital, Sanaa.
"We gave United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths 48 hours to convince the Houthis to withdraw from the port and city of Al Hodeidah", Dr Gargash said.
Local military sources said hundreds of Yemeni fighters as well as tanks and gear from the UAE arrived on Monday to reinforce troops, including Emiratis and Sudanese, in al-Durayhmi, a rural area 10 km (6.21 miles) south of Hodeidah.
Saudi Arabia's Western allies, which sell arms to coalition states, have not said publicly if they approve of the assault. The United Nations and global aid organizations pulled staff out of the city and surrounding area before the deadline. 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.
"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.
Neither the coalition nor the rebels have confirmed the death of the leader's brother, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media said.
Yemen's United Nations humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande said a "worst case" in an assault on Hodedia would mean 250,000 people "losing everything - even their lives".
The U.N. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday for all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had said that Mr Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation.
"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. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis.
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 deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt aims to target corruption and defend Yemen from invaders.
Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities - accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
Grande on Monday said while the United Nations had relocated worldwide staff from the city, numerous local staff had chosen to stay to try to continue United Nations programs.
Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the world's most important trade routes, where oil tankers pass from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.
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