Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Saudia Arabia attack on Yemen: Hodeidah assaulted by warships and warplanes

A view of the Red Sea port of Hodeidah Yemen A view of the Red Sea port of Hodeidah Yemen Thomson Reuters
Jeannette Daniel | 13 June, 2018, 17:22

On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition troops launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Green Berets are even reportedly helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in the war-torn country.

The UAE foreign ministry and government communication office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

UAE-backed Yemeni forces - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea costal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former President Alo Abdullah Saleh - are fighting alongside Emirati and Sudanese troops.

The conflict escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states - backed by the US, UK, and France - began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Mr Hadi's government.

For a little more than three years, Yemen has been locked in a seemingly intractable civil war that has killed almost 10,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of starvation.

Neither the coalition nor the rebels have confirmed the death of the leader's brother, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media said. Yemen is heavily dependent on imported food, fuel and medicine that come through Hodeidah port.

The city and surrounding area are home to 600,000 people, and the port is the main route for food and aid to reach most Yemenis, of which 8.4 million fee pre-famine conditions. The United Nations in January shipped in mobile cranes to help unload ships there.

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United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had said that Mr Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis.

Both the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians following the latest air and ground assault.

The U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, warned that a prolonged siege of the port could lead to the deaths of up to a quarter-million Yemenis due to starvation and disease.

In Geneva, ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said that the assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen", where water and electricity networks are vital to the civilian population's survival.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday acknowledged the USA continues to provide support to the Saudi-led coalition.

But once it became clear the Emirates would not hold back its allied Yemeni forces, American officials said they were focused instead on trying to ensure the operation did not damage key infrastructure such as the port as well as to ensure civilian sites did not become targets.

The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt is against corruption and defending Yemen from invaders. Saudi Arabia says Iran is backing the Houthis with weapons and logistical support - a charge Iran denies. The accusations are denied by the group and Iran.

Speaking to reporters this week, Mattis said that US support would continue at its current levels, and suggested USA aerial refueling, which lengthens flight times, increased the accuracy of Saudi and UAE bombing raids and so cut down on civilian casualties.

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