Civil­ians flee bom­bard­ment on Hu­daida

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

ADEN/ AL-DU­RAYHMI, Ye­men: Ye­meni pro-govern­ment forces were locked in heavy fight­ing with rebels that left 39 peo­ple dead Thurs­day, as they pressed ahead in an offensive to re­take the key aid hub of Hu­daida.

The clashes came as the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil met for ur­gent talks on the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion and called for the vi­tal Red Sea port to be “kept open.”

Apache at­tack he­li­copters bombed a strip of coastal ter­ri­tory near the city’s air­port, two res­i­dents told Reuters on the sec­ond day of the bat­tle.

“The fight­ing is get­ting close to the al-Man­zar area near the air­port and peo­ple are flee­ing in fear,” said Mo­ham­mad Ab­dul­lah, an em­ployee of the Houthi ad­min­is­tra­tion in the city. “My fam­ily left for Sanaa yes­ter­day but I stayed be­hind alone to pro­tect our home from loot­ers.”

Coalition forces were just 2 km from the air­port, the Emi­rati Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Obeid Salem Al Zaabi told re­porters in Geneva.

Coalition-backed Ye­meni forces have taken con­trol of Al-Du­rayhmi in south­ern Hu­daida prov­ince, an armed forces fac­tion said in a state­ment. The Arab coalition also struck the main road link­ing

Hu­daida to the cap­i­tal Sanaa to block re­in­force­ments, res­i­dents and an­tiHouthi Ye­meni mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

“The sit­u­a­tion is dire and we don’t know how it will end,” said Khadija, a teacher in Hu­daida.

The United Na­tions is strug­gling to avert dis­rup­tion to the port, the main life­line for food aid to a coun­try where 8.4 mil­lion peo­ple are on the verge of star­va­tion. A U.N. diplo­matic source said five com­mer­cial ves­sels were off-load­ing at the port.

Af­ter a two-hour U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing, the 15-mem­ber body urged “all sides to up­hold their obli­ga­tions un­der in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law,” said Rus­sian U.N. Am­bas­sador Vass­ily Neben­zia, pres­i­dent of the coun­cil for June. “They were united in their deep con­cern about the risks to the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion and re­it­er­ated their call for the ports of Hu­daida and Salif to be kept open,” Neben­zia told re­porters.

Ousted Pres­i­dent Abed Rab­bou Man­sour Hadi, who lives in ex­ile in Saudi Ara­bia, ar­rived in Aden in his first trip to the south­ern city in over a year. Aden has served as his govern­ment’s tem­po­rary cap­i­tal since 2015.

Saudi air de­fenses in­ter­cepted a mis­sile over the south­ern city of Khamis Mushait, Saudi-owned Al Ara­biya TV re­ported. Houthi-run Al Masirah tele­vi­sion said the mis­sile hit its tar­get, an air base.

Arab diplo­mats say there are plans to pre­vent the bat­tle from wors­en­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter and they will be able to im­prove food sup­plies once they con­trol the port.

Ali al-Ahmed, the Emi­rati Am­bas­sador to Ger­many, said there were over 60,000 tons of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid ready on ships and trucks to move into the re­gion once the fight­ing died down. He said it would take Arab forces about 72 hours to clear mines from Hu­daida’s port or air­port once it cap­tures them.

“It’s very im­por­tant for our cred­i­bil­ity to make sure that peo­ple in need get the help they need,” he said.

The Arab League said it sup­ported the coalition es­pe­cially in Hu­daida. The Gulf ini­tia­tive, na­tional di­a­logue and U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­ci­sions are the ba­sis for a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment, it said af­ter an emer­gency meet­ing in Cairo. –

The Red Sea port is a key en­try point for aid in a coun­try where 8.4 mil­lion are on the verge of famine.

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