Many peo­ple flee as fight­ing nears Hodeidah

The National - News - - NEWS - ALI MAH­MOOD

Tens of thou­sands of Ye­me­nis are flee­ing their homes be­cause of in­tense fight­ing near the port city of Hodeidah, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said on Thurs­day.

The worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Ye­men’s three-year-old con­flict may lie ahead if fight­ing reaches ur­ban ar­eas, the watch­dog said.

“The hu­man im­pact of this mil­i­tary of­fen­sive on Ye­men’s western coastal ar­eas is clear in the distress­ing sto­ries shared by civil­ians dis­placed by the con­flict,” said Rawya Rageh, se­nior cri­sis re­sponse ad­viser at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional.

Ye­meni forces backed by an Arab coali­tion are ad­vanc­ing against Houthi rebels on sev­eral fronts near the city. The coali­tion sup­ports the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised gov­ern­ment of Ye­men’s Pres­i­dent Ab­drabu Mansur Hadi.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional in­ter­viewed 34 Ye­meni civil­ians who had fled Hodeidah to­wards Aden, where the Ye­men gov­ern­ment is ex­iled. Ms Rageh said the sit­u­a­tion was “a glimpse of what po­ten­tially lies in store on a wider scale if the fight­ing en­croaches on the densely pop­u­lated port city of Hodeidah”.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, clashes along Ye­men’s west coast have dis­placed about 100,000 peo­ple in re­cent months, most of them from Hodeidah prov­ince. More than three mil­lion Ye­meni civil­ians have been dis­placed so far dur­ing the con­flict.

Hodeidah’s docks han­dle the bulk of the coun­try’s im­ports and aid sup­plies but the Houthis have also used the port to smug­gle in Ira­nian-made weapons.

In Taez prov­ince, mean­while, 133 Houthi fighters sur­ren­dered to Ye­meni forces this week, ac­cord­ing to Aseel Al Sak­ladi, the me­dia of­fi­cer with the Taez re­gional gov­ern­ment. Many of the sur­ren­der­ing fighters be­longed to elite forces from the Houthi stronghold of Sadaa.

“The Houthi fighters found them­selves be­sieged as our forces took con­trol over Al Bareh in­ter­sec­tion, which en­abled us to cut many in­ter­nal sup­ply routes used by the Houthis to pro­vide food sup­plies and am­mu­ni­tion for their out­posts in Taez,” Ms Al Sak­ladi said.

Else­where in the north, Ye­meni troops cut a sup­ply route used by the Houthi mili­tia in Sadaa. And in Haja prov­ince, north-east Ye­men, army forces backed by Saudi forces cap­tured parts of Al Nar mountain in Haradh dis­trict.

The Ye­meni gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day proposed a pris­oner ex­change with Houthi rebels for Ra­madan.

The of­fer was made by Ye­meni In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Moam­mer Al Iryani and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Askar. The min­is­ters called for Red Cres­cent me­di­a­tion for all pris­on­ers to re­turn for the holy month.

Tribal me­di­a­tion has in the past led to the re­lease of hun­dreds of pris­on­ers by the war­ring par­ties. The num­ber of those still de­tained is un­known.

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