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

World       by Dawood Rehman | Published

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen's port city of Hudaida Wednesday, killing more than 250 Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

"We are distributing food, hygiene and nutritional supplies, shelter materials". The United Nations and worldwide aid organizations pulled staff out of the city and surrounding area before the deadline. Hodeida is the main entry point for food and humanitarian aid for the entire country.

Coalition warplanes and warships were carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said in a statement issued by its media office.

The UN Security Council meeting was called after a request from Britain.

On her part, the UAE senior official said the UAE has responded to the United Nations plan to give relief to Yemen and offered $500 million in support of the plan.

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. "We call on them to exercise restraint & engage with political efforts to spare Hodeida a military confrontation", he tweeted. The siege started on Wednesday despite United Nations warnings that it could lead to significant civilian casualties. Shahari said he feared that the condition of some 300,000 children would worsen with less access to food, water and medicine, describing an already dire situation when he visited Hodeidah three months ago.

"UNICEF has pre-prepositioned supplies in Hodeida: over 20,000 basic hygiene kits (one kit per family)".

The attack could mark a new phase of the war - the first urban fighting in the conflict.

The assault began after the expiry of a deadline set by the United Arab Emirates for the Houthis, who hold the capital Sanaa, to hand over the sole port under their control.

Halting operations at the crucial Hodeidah port would have an enormous impact on people all across Yemen, humanitarian agencies have warned, urging the warring parties to spare innocent lives in their battle for the Red Sea city.

Residents of the city have been experiencing a relative calm prior to the assault.

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

On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition forces began an assault on the country's largest port, June 13, 2018.

A Yemeni anti-Houthi military official said the alliance had brought to bear a 21,000-strong force.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.

Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa. They have always been restricting imports into Hodeidah to prevent what they say is Iranian traffic of missiles to the Houthis, and say they can swiftly improve food supplies once they control the port. "The people are still in their homes and people can't leave the Durayhimi district centre".

Commenting on the situation, he said: "People are already literally dying of starvation". Naval forces, they said, are ready to join the fighting from the southern side of Hodeida.

Joost Hilterman, program director for the Middle East for the International Crisis Group, said the future of the port city - and the war as a whole - had to be decided through negotiations, as a military defeat seemed unlikely.

For the last three years the Saudi-led coalition hasn't made any major advances.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel later acknowledged the offensive, claiming rebel forces hit a Saudi coalition ship near Hudaida with two land-to-sea missiles.

Al Arabiya is believed to be at least partially owned by Saudi Arabia's government.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Sunni Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015 to restore Mr Hadi's government.

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

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