ibusinesslines.com August 20, 2018

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

14 June 2018, 09:54 | Erica Roy

Residents of the city collect water from an Oxfam water tank

Residents of the city collect water from an Oxfam water tank

"The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas", the exiled government said in a statement carried by state-run Yemeni media.

"The liberation of Hodeidah is critical in light of the growing threat that the Iranian backed Houthi militia poses to the maritime security of the Red Sea, a vital waterway through which about 15% of global commerce passes", the ambassador said. But the first wave of this relatively high-tech assault by irregular Houthi forces occurred back on October 2nd, 2016 when the high-speed logistics catamaran HSV-2 Swift was destroyed by an anti-ship missile.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

On Tuesday, the exiled government said its forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault after "exhausting all peaceful and political means".

The port city, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa.

Coalition warplanes and warships later began bombarding Houthi positions.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their global staff from Hodeida ahead of the assault.

Yemeni forces massing around Hodeida are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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

In response to 150 ballistic missiles hurled into Saudi Arabia by the Houthis, the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said: "No nation can accept such a threat to its land and people on its borders". The city is vital for aid shipments, as about 70 percent of Yemen's imports go through its port. The conflict has also caused a cholera outbreak and brought the already impoverished nation to the verge of starvation. The United Nations in January shipped in mobile cranes to help unload ships there.

The United Nations said Friday the worst-case scenario is 250,000 civilians killed in the assault. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said that UN envoy Martin Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation.

This is a significant battle in the three-year conflict, one that marks the last step before capturing the capital Sanaa, restoring Yemen's legitimate government and bringing the war to an end.

We are in regular contact with the Coalition about the need to ensure that any military operations in and around Hodeidah are conducted in accordance with global humanitarian law, including on the protection of civilians, and do not disrupt commercial and humanitarian flows through the port.

"The assault risks exacerbating an already catastrophic situation in Yemen", she added, noting that three out of four Yemenis are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. 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".

"We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hodeidah that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties", he said.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the US continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition. "We have a ship offloading food even as shelling and bombing is happening", Grande said.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see the Houthi rise as expansionism by their Shi'ite foe, Iran.

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