445,000 Ye­me­nis flee fight­ing

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - WORLD NEWS - MENNA ZAKI

CAIRO — Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ye­me­nis from the Hodeida area have been forced to flee amid a Saudi- led coali­tion of­fen­sive to take the key Red Sea port city from Shi­ite rebels, the UN’s refugee agency said Fri­day, as fierce bat­tles con­tinue to rage in the area.

Some 445,000 of the Hodeida gover­norate’s res­i­dents have fled since June, a fig­ure that un­der­scores the dire sit­u­a­tion in and around the city that serves as the main en­try point for food and aid, the UNHCR said. The gover­norate’s pop­u­la­tion is around 3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil.

The UNHCR also ex­pressed con­cern over the safety of those trapped in Hodeida as the in­ten­si­fied mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions “are in­creas­ingly con­fin­ing pop­u­la­tions and cut­ting off exit routes.” Fig­ures on those still in Hodeida are dif­fi­cult to gauge, the agency added.

Ye­meni gov­ern­ment forces sup- ported by the coali­tion’s air and naval forces con­tinue to en­gage in heavy fight­ing with the rebels, known as Houthis. The fight­ing has killed dozens of com­bat­ants from both sides, with dozens of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles de­stroyed or burn­ing along the front lines.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment based in the south­ern city of Aden said its forces are ad­vanc­ing to­ward the north and west of Hodeida and across all fronts with cover from the coali­tion.

Also on Fri­day, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said the vi­o­lence in Hodeida is in close prox­im­ity to the city’s health fa­cil­i­ties, im­ped­ing their abil­ity to func­tion and restrict­ing the move­ment of health staff, pa­tients and am­bu­lances.

The Saudi- led coali­tion’s lat­est push to­ward Hodeida comes as Ye­men’s civil war is a few months away from en­ter­ing its fourth year. The coali­tion in­ter­vened in Ye­men in March 2015 with the aim of de­feat­ing the Iran- aligned rebels and to re­store the gov­ern­ment of Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi. But the coali­tion has re­cently come un­der mount­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to end the war that has re­sulted in what the UN says is the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

The fight­ing around the city, a vi­tal life­line for most of Ye­men’s pop­u­la­tion, threat­ens to worsen Ye­men’s al­ready- dire hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion and risks the ob­struc­tion of cru­cial as­sis­tance to the coun­try en­dan­ger­ing the lives of mil­lions of Ye­me­nis.

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