Many people flee as fighting nears Hodeidah
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.