Published: Mon, June 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Civilians flee bombardment as Arab states pound Yemen port

Civilians flee bombardment as Arab states pound Yemen port

Battlefield commanders say fighting intensified on Friday outside the airport of the vital Yemeni city of Hodeida, pitting thousands of pro-government Yemeni fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Emirati forces and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Amidst reports of Houthis' tough response to the Saudi led aggression on port of Hudaidah, the UN Security Council has called on all sides involved in fighting to keep the port open to allow the delivery of aid and other essentials.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia are part of a coalition backing Yemen's internationally recognized government in its attempt to capture the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

The officials told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television that troops had entered the Al Manzar area adjacent to the airport, which lies just south of Hodeidah city.

"People in the governorate have reported heavy airstrikes along coastal areas and roads in districts south of Hodeida", the council said.

The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid and the number at risk of starvation could more than double to more than 18 million by year-end unless access improves.

The Saudis and the Emiratis, the principal foreign powers that intervened on behalf of Yemen's routed government in 2015, argue that aid will move much faster once they have freed the city from the Houthis.

"We saw the resistance forces in the square at the northwestern entrance to the airport", said a Hodeidah resident, referring to Yemeni allies of the Saudi-led Arab alliance.

On Monday, the Security Council said it supported United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths, who is leading diplomatic efforts to convince the Huthi rebels to hand over control of the port.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel aired footage it described as being from near Hodeida showing a burned-out truck, corpses of irregular fighters and a damaged Emirati armoured vehicle.

"Any closure of the port, even for a few days, will have a dramatic impact on the humanitarian operations in the country", the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, told The Associated Press Thursday. A halt to this assistance could have a significant effect on the coalition's warfighting capability: among others, ex-CIA analyst Bruce Reidel assesses that the Royal Saudi Air Force is "wholly dependent on American and British support for its maintenance and operations".

The council is set to meet behind closed doors to discuss the assault launched on Wednesday on rebel-held Hodeida despite United Nations warnings of a looming catastrophe in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation.

But in Yemen's protracted civil war, which has killed approximately 10,000 people and led to tens of thousands more deaths from sickness and starvation, worldwide aid agencies are wary of predictions by the Saudis and the Emiratis that they could snatch a quick victory in Hodeida's complex urban environment.

"The liberation of Hodeidah is the cornerstone of overthrowing the financial empire built by Houthis", said Ibrahim, another Sanaa citizen. The Houthis earlier said they had struck a coalition ship off the coast of Hodeida with two missiles.

With logistical support from the USA, the Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out attacks inside Yemen since March 2015, killing at least 10,000 people, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

And for now, she said Hodeidah's all-important port - which receives about 80 percent of the country's imports - remains untouched by the bombardment.

In a press statement Thursday after an emergency closed-door meeting, the council expressed "deep concerns about the risks to the humanitarian situation" following the launch of an offensive against Hodeida by the Saudi-led coalition. The US has been supplying crucial information to the Saudi-led coalition, as well as refueling their warplanes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is warning "more and more fighters" are in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida amid a Saudi-led campaign to capture it.

An administration official acknowledged that the coalition would like the get more involved militarily in the battle to free the port, but so far that has not happened.

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