Activists protest as Italy prepares to ship migrants to Spain
An attack on Hodeidah would “plunge the country further into humanitarian disaster and risk opening another power vacuum for Al-qaeda to fill,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat of California and a former air force lawyer. “If they cross that red line, the US will have a strategic, moral and legal obligation to cut off all support for the coalition in Yemen.”
Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities – accusations that were denied by Yemen and Iran.
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-houthi has warned the group will attack oil tankers in the event of an assault on Hodeidah.
The coalition says one of the main justifications for its intervention is to protect Red Sea shipping, which brings Middle East oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal.
Compiled from Dispatches
Hundreds of migrants stranded on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean will be taken to Spain with the help of two Italian ships, a charity said Tuesday, after deteriorating weather conditions sparked fears for their safety.
Italy planned to transfer the migrants crammed aboard a charity boat onto other vessels on Tuesday and then sail them all to Spain, despite appeals from humanitarian groups to let the group disembark immediately, Reuters reported.
Some 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been drifting in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius rescue ship since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta shut their ports to the vessel.
Malta and the new government of Italy refused to allow the Aquarius rescue vessel to dock.
The move from Rome was the first major anti-migrant step since a Eurosceptic, populist government took office this month.
Spain unexpectedly offered on Monday to take in the migrants, who were picked up off Libya’s coast over the weekend, but the Aquarius had still not moved more than 16 hours later, as Italian authorities work out the logistics of the trip.
Malta and Italy both thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible, AFP reported.
Aid workers then raised fears that the ship would not be able to reach Spain safely due to deteriorating weather conditions.
They were also concerned the vessel, which was built to transport just 500 people, could not safely carry all 629 of those rescued at sea.
Doctors Without Borders, which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterranne, said Italy wanted to shift at least some of the migrants onto other vessels and then head together in a convoy towards the Spanish port of Valencia.
“This plan would mean already exhausted rescued people would endure 4 more days travel at sea,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Twitter. “MSF calls for people’s safety to come before politics.”
It added: “The better option would be to disembark the rescued people in the nearest port after which they can be transferred to Spain or other safe countries for further care and legal processing.”
But Italy’s new anti-establishment government, looking to put pressure on the European Union to rewrite its immigration rules, showed no signs of relenting despite warnings of an approaching storm bringing waves of over two meters (6.5 ft).