United Nations pulls staff from Yemen’s Hodeidah ahead of expected imminent assault

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2018

The Red Sea port is a lifeline for millions of people, handling most of the country's commercial imports and humanitarian aid supplies.

The strike coincides with the advance of coalition-backed Yemeni forces on the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, the main conduit for humanitarian supplies into a country teetering on the brink of starvation. "But if Hodeidah city is attacked it might be hard as we can't risk sending our staff to the frontline".

Saudi Arabia launched a war against the Houthis in March 2015, after the rebels drove Yemen's internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.

United Nations pulls staff from Yemen’s Hodeidah ahead of expected imminent assault

Last week, the Houthis claimed to have killed more than 70 Yemeni soldiers in an ambush in Al-Hudaydah province, but a Yemeni military commander said that only 19 soldiers had been killed.

"We are, at the present moment, in intense consultation", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Monday.

Guterres, the United Nations chief, said there has been a recent "lull in the fighting" to allow for discussions and hopefully avoid a battle.

Hodeidah is a critical point for nearly 80 percent of aid entering Yemen, which is in a situation the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The Houthis control parts of the northern part of the country, while Yemen's coalition-backed government controls much of the south.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have ramped up missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks and months.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday expressed concern at the situation in Hudeida and called on all parties to "honour their commitments to working with the United Nations".

"A military attack or siege on Hodeidah will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians", Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said on Friday.

The U.N. considers Yemen to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he had spoken with Emirati leaders and urged them to work with the United Nations to ensure "the free flow of humanitarian aid and life-saving commercial imports" through Hodeida.

The UN and aid agencies have pleaded with the Saudi-led force against an attack on Hodeida, warning that it could lead to mass civilian casualties and starvation.

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