Civilians flee bombardment on Hudaida
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.