August 15, 2018

The War in Yemen: Saudi-led forces launch assault on Hudaida

14 June 2018, 09:57 | Darnell Patrick

Saudi-Led Alliance Gears up for Assault on Key Yemeni Port City

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

A Saudi-led coalition launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.

The incident occurred as Saudi-led coalition forces were making an amphibious assault near the city, part of an ongoing blitz to clear Houthi rebels from the area that has included past amphibious landings.

The renewed push on Hodeidah comes amid increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and arch-foe Iran after the United States withdrew last month from an global nuclear agreement with Tehran, a move hailed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The assault threatens the safety of humanitarian workers in the city, as well as around 400,000 people living there, McManus said.

Some 22 million people, or 80 percent of the Yemeni population, are in need of humanitarian aid, while more than half of the country is left without basic medical services.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, who has threatened attacks on tankers entering the Red Sea, warned the alliance not to attack and said on Twitter his forces had struck a coalition barge.

A view of cranes, damaged by air strikes, at the container terminal of the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen November 30, 2017.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday on the Saudi-led coalition's offensive against Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.

More than 10,000 people have died and 3 million displaced in that time.

"The latest developments will only lead to further escalation and instability in Yemen", Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

He called on all parties to engage with United Nations efforts "to spare Hodeida any military confrontation" and "give peace a chance".

The port city of Hudaida is crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine for a nation driven to the brink of starvation by the conflict and a Saudi-led blockade.

While the coalition has supplied hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, including a UAE committal of $500 million to the United Nations humanitarian response plan in April, the Houthis have confiscated vital supplies.

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He said the kits include food for a family of four for two weeks as well as hygiene items and other essential goods. Already, Yemeni security officials said some were fleeing the fighting.

"The Houthi militia have also used the port of Hodeidah as a key entry point of smuggled weapons including Iranian provided ballistic missiles". They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists.

Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa.

They say the fighting is raging in the coastal areas of ad-Durayhimi district. "Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes".

United States officials confirmed the attack and that the ship was on fire, while adding that the vessel indeed was owned by the UAE, CNN reported.

The statement on the government-controlled SABA news agency early Wednesday morning called the battle for Hodeida "a milestone in our struggle to get Yemen back from the militias".

The ongoing Coalition intervention in Yemen came at the request of the legitimate Government of Yemen after Houthi rebels took the Yemeni capital by force in 2014.

Saudi Arabia's Western allies, which sell arms to coalition states, have not said publicly if they approve of the assault. "The Saudi coalition has not advanced at all in Hodeidah".

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV quoted witnesses describing "concentrated and intense" bombing near the port itself.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and a bloc of other countries intervened the following year with the goal of restoring the government to power.

By Wednesday night, the offensive remained on the outskirts of the rebel-held airport. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard in the background.

Yemen's government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier told French newspaper Le Figaro the deadline for a withdrawal from Hodeida by the Houthis expired early Wednesday morning.

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