Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

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

Yemen war Saudi-backed forces launch attack Sudanese forces fighting alongside the Saudi-UAE coalition gathered near the outskirts of Hudaida
Deanna Wagner | 14 June, 2018, 04:41

The Security Council has strongly supported efforts by new United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths to resume political negotiations and avoid a military escalation of the three-year-long conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million, and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The battle for Hodeidah is expected to be by far the biggest of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iranian-backed Houthis. The battle for Hodeida, if the Houthis don't withdraw, also may mark the first major street-to-street urban fighting for the Saudi-led coalition, which can be deadly for both combatants and civilians alike.

The assault, part of an operation dubbed "Golden Victory", began with coalition airstrikes and shelling by naval ships, according to Saudi-owned satellite news channels and state media.

Neither the coalition nor the rebels have confirmed the death of the leader's brother, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media said.

The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement.

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

The officials spoke on condition in anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

"The liberation of Hudaida port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas", the statement added.

"Any attack on or significant, long-term disruption of operations of the port will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Yemen", Frank McManus, the International Rescue Committee's country director in Yemen, told ABC News.

"Sheikh Mohammed reiterated that thanks to the gallantry and sacrifices of its forces, the Saudi-led Arab Coalition is stronger and in better position to maintain stability and security and to liberate Yemen and to enable the country to begin a new era of peace and development at the hands of its loyal people", the statement said.

Emirati-led troops have advanced along the southwestern coast to the outskirts of Hodeidah under a strategy to box in the Houthis in the capital Sanaa and cut off their supply lines to force them to the negotiating table.

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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 U.S. 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".

The United Nations and aids groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

The offensive is controversial because the port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen's imports as the country teeters on the brink of starvation.

Earlier Tuesday, Yemeni officials said the United Nations had pulled its global staff out of Hodeida, a crucial Red Sea port city now controlled by the Houthis.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande announced recently that "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything -even their lives", if there is a military attack on Hudaydah.

The sources said UAE-backed Yemeni forces - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh - were "at the doors" of Hodeidah airport.

"We hear sounds of explosions". We are concerned about missiles and shells. "Some workers have left to their villages for fear of the war", said Mohamed, a Hodeida resident who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals.

He said dozens of families have fled their homes in the city, heading to the countryside.

Bombardment was heavy, with one aid official reporting 30 strikes in 30 minutes.

"We hope we don't need to use them", UNICEF Yemen representative Meritxell Relano said on her Twitter account.