Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

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

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

The liberation of Hodeidah is critical to secure roughly 15 per cent of worldwide trade in the Red Sea, on which the global economy depends.

Robert Mardini, the regional director for the Red Cross, said the push on Hodeida "is likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen".

On Tuesday, the exiled government said its forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault after "exhausting all peaceful and political means".

Witnesses described heavy fighting to the city's south, near its airport. Despite the fighting, the port continues to operate, management of the port said, while the United Nations confirmed an aid delivery on Wednesday. It is vital to maintain the flow of food, fuel and medical supplies into Yemen. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists. Jaquemet reminded the warring parties that they are obliged by worldwide law to "spare civilians" as well as to offer safe passage for those who are trying to flee the war zone.

He said "aid operations will be severely challenged in the event of sustained fighting in densely populated urban areas" and stressed that people trying to flee conflict areas "must be allowed to do so without any hindrance".

"We need the warring parties to respect the humanitarian organizations, to respect the population, to respect global humanitarian law and, above all, allow the population access to food, to water, to healthcare, to education", Martins added.

The European Union's foreign policy chief warned of the "devastating" impact the assault would have.

The assault threatens the safety of humanitarian workers in the city, as well as around 400,000 people living there, McManus said.

"Under global humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.

Aid agencies warned that the crucial battle in the three-year-old conflict could push the Arab world's poorest country into further chaos.

"The latest developments will only lead to further escalation and instability in Yemen", Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

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The civil war in Yemen has taken a dramatic new turn as Saudi-backed forces try to take the key rebel-held port of Hodeidah.

The port remains open, with supplies arriving.

Everything from U.S. Navy destroyers to tanker ships have been attacked by Houthi rebels in the southern Red Sea, with Saudi Arabian naval ships being struck a number of times.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

In a statement responding to the potentially catastrophic attack on Hodeidah, Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, took aim at both the USA and the United Kingdom for providing crucial political and military support for the Saudi-led assault, arguing that such complicity reveals "the true face of their foreign policy".

Bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador, wrote that Houthi rebels have attacked commercial and military ships, including those belonging to the U.S. He added that the "liberation of Hodaidah" is critical because of the threat Iran-backed Houthis pose to the security of the Red Sea.

They are backed on the ground by the UAE, while Saudi Arabia has been leading a campaign of air strikes. "This is possibly what we're most concerned about".

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

As many as 22 million people - three-quarters of Yemen's population - could be at risk of losing access to necessary food and medicines they receive through the port, amid a worsening humanitarian crisis on the verge of starvation that the United Nations has described as the world's most dire.

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