Published: Wed, June 13, 2018

United Nations warns against consequences of Saudi-led attack on Yemen's Hudaydah

United Nations warns against consequences of Saudi-led attack on Yemen's Hudaydah

The Saudi-led coalition, which the UAE is part of, is gearing up for an assault on Hodeidah, preparing to launch by far the biggest battle of a three-year-old war between an alliance of Arab states and the Houthi movement that controls Yemen's capital Sanaa.

The assault on the Red Sea port aims to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and a victory could be a major shift in a war that has been stalemated.

Hudaydah became even more important after the conflict between the Houthis and the government escalated in March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition intervened.

Before dawn Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading toward the rebel-held city, according to videos posted on social media. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire could be heard clearly in the background.

Before the war, over 70 percent of Yemen's food and fuel imports came through Hudaida, accounting for over 40 percent of the nation's customs income.

Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for global cooperation, has said if the port is wrested from the Houthis, the coalition could ease controls aimed at denying the group arms and ease the flow of goods and aid into Yemen, where millions face starvation and disease.

Responding to the early stages of the attack-which began with an estimated 30 Saudi airstrikes within half an hour, guided by us military intelligence-Win Without War wrote on Twitter that the attack is "a dark moment of shame for the United States".

"Thanks to them controlling the port of Hodeidah, they are getting financing, which allows them to get weapons, weapons such as missiles that are then fired on Saudi Arabia". "Liberation of the port of Hodeidah is a milestone in our struggle to regain Yemen from the militias".

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days. In August 2015, air strikes disabled four giant mobile cranes, drastically slowing the unloading of food until they were replaced by the USA - which supports the coalition - this January.

Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash earlier told French newspaper Le Figaro the deadline for a withdrawal from Hodeidah by the Houthis expired on Wednesday morning.

Hudaydah is a lifeline for people living in rebel-held areas, serving as the most important point of entry for the basic supplies needed to prevent starvation and a recurrence of a cholera epidemic that affected a million people a year ago. The support has continued despite worldwide alarm over the coalition's air campaign against the Houthis, which has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes that human rights groups have alleged are frequently indiscriminate.

Humanitarian organisations had developed "contingency plans" for the event of an attack affecting the 600,000 people living in and around Hodeida, she said.

Martin Griffiths, United Nations special envoy to Yemen, wrote on Wednesday that he is "extremely concerned" with the Saudi-led military escalation and said he is working with both parties to avert further disaster.

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 US position on Hodeidah continues to shift wildly, however. The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran - an accusation Tehran denied - but the closure of Hudaydah for several weeks resulted in sharp increases in prices of basic commodities, accelerating food insecurity.

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