Bid to re­take key Ye­meni port

> Saudi-led coali­tion at­tacks Hodei­dah in big­gest bat­tle of three-year war

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

ADEN: A Saudi-led coali­tion launched an as­sault on Ye­men’s main port city of Hodei­dah yes­ter­day in the big­gest bat­tle of a three-year war be­tween an al­liance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Coali­tion war­planes and war­ships pounded Houthi for­ti­fi­ca­tions to sup­port ground oper­a­tions by Ye­meni troops massed south of the coun­try’s largest port, the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised Ye­meni govern­ment in ex­ile said.

The Golden Vic­tory oper­a­tion be­gan af­ter the pass­ing of a dead­line set by the United Arab Emirates for the Houthis, who hold the cap­i­tal Sanaa and the main pop­u­lated ar­eas of Ye­men, to quit the sole port un­der their con­trol.

The Red Sea port is a life­line for Ye­me­nis, han­dling 80% of es­sen­tial goods to the im­pov­er­ished coun­try, which the United Na­tions says is grap­pling with the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Some 8.4 mil­lion peo­ple in Ye­men face pre-famine con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Houthi leader Mo­hammed Ali Al-Houthi, who has threat­ened at­tacks on oil tankers along the strate­gic Red Sea ship­ping lane, warned the West­ern-backed al­liance not to at­tack the port and said on Twit­ter his forces had tar­geted a coali­tion barge.

Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said two mis­siles struck the barge, but there was no im­me­di­ate con­fir­ma­tion from the coali­tion.

The United Na­tions had been try­ing to get the par­ties to reach a deal that would avert an at­tack on Hodei­dah, which it fears would fur­ther im­pede Ye­me­nis’ ac­cess to food, fuel and medicine for mil­lions of Ye­me­nis fac­ing dis­ease.

It es­ti­mates that 600,000 peo­ple live in the area, and in a worst-case sce­nario, a bat­tle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cut­ting off aid and other sup­plies to mil­lions of peo­ple.

ICRC spokesman Marie-Claire Feghali said the as­sault was “likely to ex­ac­er­bate an al­ready cat­a­strophic humanitarian sit­u­a­tion in Ye­men”, where wa­ter and elec­tric­ity net­works are vi­tal to the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion’s sur­vival.

The as­sault is the first time since the coali­tion of mostly Gulf states joined the war in 2015 that they have at­tempted to cap­ture such a well-de­fended ma­jor city.

The aim is to box in the Houthis in Sanaa, cut their sup­ply lines and force them to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

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 – are fight­ing along­side Emi­rati and Su­danese troops.

The al­liance in­ter­vened in Ye­men to re­store the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abd-Rabbu Man­sour Hadi and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as the ex­pan­sion­ist aims of Tehran.

The Houthis deny they are Ira­nian pawns and say their re­volt aims to tar­get cor­rup­tion and de­fend Ye­men from in­vaders. – Reuters

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