Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Saudi-led forces battle Shiite rebels south of key Yemen port

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way Saudi-Led Alliance Gears up for Assault on Key Yemeni Port City
Charlie Simmons | 17 June, 2018, 13:20

The assault began at around 1:15 pm (1015 GMT) after Yemeni pro-government forces received a "green light" from the Saudi-led coalition, they said.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel claimed rebel forces hit a Saudi coalition ship near Hodeida with two missiles.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

Before dawn Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading toward the rebel-held city as heavy gunfire rang out.

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

Some 70% of Yemen's food enters through the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

The coalition has blocked most ports, letting supplies into Hodeida in co-ordination with the U.N. The air campaign and fighting have disrupted other supply lines, causing an economic crisis that makes food too expensive for many to afford.

Exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and many of his advisers now live in Saudi Arabia after Shiite rebels known as Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. The Saudi-led coalition has been criticized for its airstrikes killing civilians. The port remains crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine for a nation driven to the brink of starvation by the conflict and a Saudi-led blockade.

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Although the Trump administration has developed close ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, "many members of Congress and global diplomats blame the two countries for exacerbating what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with indiscriminate attacks that have been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths", adds the newspaper.

The officials spoke on condition in anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

Griffiths warned in a statement earlier Wednesday that "further military escalation will have serious consequences on the dire humanitarian situation in the country" and hinder his efforts to restart political negotiations.

Aid groups have expressed grave concerns for the safety of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city whose lives could be at risk from the assault launched Wednesday.

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 Iran.

Yemeni forces backed by troops from the United Arab Emirates launched the assault despite UN warnings of a "catastrophic humanitarian impact".

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also wrote several tweets Tuesday night suggesting an attack on Hodeida was imminent.

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

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