Saudi-Led Coalition Begins Attack on Yemeni Port Held by Houthis

Saudi-Led Coalition Begins Attack on Yemeni Port Held by Houthis

"The battle for Hodeidah will nearly certainly result in a huge loss of civilian life and damage to vital infrastructure", said Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director for Save the Children.

Jolien Veldwijk, acting director for Care International in Yemen, told Al Jazeera that the port of Hudaida is crucial for aid agencies to be able to do their work.

The United Arab Emirates, a member of the Western-backed alliance, set a Tuesday deadline for the Iran-aligned Houthis to withdraw from the port of Hodeidah under U.N. -led talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists.

UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimy said if the port was no longer under Houthi control then the coalition could ease controls aimed at denying arms to the group by doing away with inspections at the Saudi port of Jizan.

Coalition warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the country's largest port, the internationally recognized Yemeni government in exile said.

Hadi's government said in a statement reported by Saudi media on Wednesday that all political and peaceful approaches to drive the Houthis out of Hodeidah had been exhausted.

A Yemeni anti-Houthi military official said the alliance had brought to bear a 21,000-strong force.

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".

Civil war has raged in Yemen since late 2014, when the Houthis and allied forces seized north-western parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and eventually forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

The port city of Hudaida is crucial for incoming aid, food and medicine for a nation driven to the brink of starvation by the conflict and a Saudi-led blockade.

The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately acknowledge the incident.


Some 22 million people, or 80 percent of the Yemeni population, are in need of humanitarian aid, while more than half of the country is left without basic medical services.

The UN and other aid groups already had pulled their global staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumoured assault. An assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation", Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said.

The vessel was located off the coast of Hodeidah, which is a strategic port that the Saudi-led coalition have been targeting.

In a tweet, the UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, called on both sides to end the fighting and find a negotiated settlement.

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

It estimates that 600,000 people live in the area, and in a worst-case scenario, a battle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cutting off aid and other supplies to millions of people.

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 will update this article when more information becomes available.

The new United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted that he was "extremely concerned" by the violence, calling on all parties to exercise restraint. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the U.S.

The US marginally backs the Saudi-led coalition, announcing yesterday that it's helping show the coalition which targets not to hit in order to limit civilian casualties.

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