Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

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

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

A Saudi-led alliance of Arab states launched the largest assault of Yemen's war on Wednesday with an attack on the country's main port, aiming to bring the ruling Houthi movement to its knees at the risk of worsening the world's biggest humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port in a campaign aimed at driving out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and breaking the civil war's long stalemate.

Before dawn on Wednesday, caravans of vehicles seemed to be heading towards the rebellious city, according to videos posted on social networks. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard. Houthi forces have consistently failed to adhere to UN Security Council Resolutions, including by launching missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Red Sea.

Yemen's exiled government "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeidah", it said in a statement.

The conflict in Yemen has raged 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.

Global aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 percent of Yemen's food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

October 2016: An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hits a crowded funeral in Sanaa, killing at least 140 mourners. Over 150 ballistic missiles have been fired into the kingdom by the Houthis, according to Saudi officials.

"These efforts included the recent contribution of $1.5 billion to United Nations relief efforts in Yemen, the largest in United Nations history, as well as initiatives to enhance the capacity of ports throughout Yemen, including facilitating the entry of cranes into Hodeidah".

He also denied reports from the supporters of Saudi coalition about closure of Hudaydah, slamming it as a "vain attempt" to mislead the world's public opinion and misrepresent the facts for justifying another aggressive operation against the people of Yemen.

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It estimates 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 millions from aid and supplies.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government launched the assault on Hodeida on Wednesday, raising warnings from aid agencies that Yemen's humanitarian disaster could deepen.

Hours earlier, Yemeni exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi flew from the Saudi capital Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to meet UAE officials after a year of tense relationship that led to deadly clashes between Hadi's loyal southern forces and UAE-backed parties over control of the southern port city of Aden.

Coalition sources say 18 air strikes were carried out on Houthi positions on the outskirts of Hudaydah on Wednesday.

The coalition has not formally announced the commencement of the final phase of the operation to capture the city, but aid organisations were reportedly warned on 9 June that the UAE had given them three days to withdraw their personnel and intensified bombing was reported on 13 June. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015.

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

Despite the fighting, the United Nations kept up its aid supplies. "The British told us a week ago that the Emiratis and the Saudis had told them they would not enter the battle of Hodeidah without their agreement and assistance".

The Houthis, from a Shi'ite minority, say they took power through a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion.

Griffiths was reportedly offered ending of coalition bombing campaign against Houthi movement in return that Houthis hand over Hodeidah port city to a third party under United Nations supervision and give up ballistic missiles and join a national unity government.

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