Yemen: '300000 kids at risk' as all out bombardment launched on port

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2018

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

The Arab states hope for a swift victory that would force the Iran-aligned Houthis to negotiate.

The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt is against corruption and defending Yemen from invaders.

Yemen's civil war, which began in 2014, has become a broader regional conflict.

The Houthi official responsible for foreign affairs, Hisham Sharaf, said the advance was a military escalation aimed at hampering United Nations efforts, Houthi-run media said. "The Saudi coalition has not advanced at all in Hodeidah", Dayfallah al-Shami, a member of the movement's political bureau, told the Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen.

A major battle that throws the people of Yemen into further crisis and starvation could test that support. Aid agencies say the coastal city provides a vital route for food and medicine and that millions of people are at risk of starvation if goods can not pass through it.

Despite the fighting, the United Nations kept up its aid supplies.

The U.N. says some 600,000 people live in and around Hodeida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault.

"We have a ship offloading food even as shelling and bombing is happening".

The UN Security Council is to hold urgent talks on Yemen on Thursday.

The Houthis deployed military vehicles and troops in the city centre and near the port, as warplanes struck the coast to the south, a resident speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

In Hodeidah, people waited anxiously for the fighting to reach their neighbourhoods. "Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes", said Jolien Veldwijk, acting country director of the aid group CARE International, which works in Hodeida. "We thought it could not get any worse, but unfortunately we were wrong".

The U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said the world body was talking to both sides to try to avert a battle.

The US position on Hodeidah continues to shift wildly, however.

They say they will attempt to keep the port running and can ease the crisis once they seize it by lifting import restrictions they have imposed.

Civil war has raged in Yemen since late 2014, when the Houthis and allied forces seized north-western parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and eventually forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

But they accused the Houthis of planting mines that could prolong efforts to bring in aid after the port's capture.

The biggest offensive of the war in the Arab world's poorest nation has raised warnings from aid agencies that Yemen's humanitarian disaster could deepen.

The war pits the Houthis against the Western-backed Sunni Muslim states, which intervened in 2015 to restore the exiled government and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as expansionist aims of their Shi'ite Muslim foe Iran.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi criticized the Gulf Arabs' Western allies.

Citing sources within the military, Dubai-based Al Arabiya said the battle began early Wednesday morning. "So we hold them and America responsible".

"Under worldwide 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, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.

In Washington, the State Department's top Middle East official, David Satterfield, told lawmakers the United States was not assisting the operation in Hodeidah.

It wasn't immediately clear what specific American support the coalition was receiving Wednesday.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the main coalition partners, had commented on the claim at the time of writing, but Jane's has previously revealed that they have not reported earlier Yemeni rebel attacks on their naval vessels in the Red Sea.

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