445,000 Ye­me­nis flee fight­ing

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS - Menna Zaki

Cairo — hun­dreds of thou­sands of ye­me­nis from the hodeida area have been forced to flee amid a Saudi-led coali­tion of­fen­sive to take the key red Sea port city from Shi­ite rebels, the UN’s refugee agency said Fri­day, as fierce bat­tles con­tinue to rage in the area.

Some 445,000 of the hodeida gover­norate’s res­i­dents have fled since June, a fig­ure that un­der­scores the dire sit­u­a­tion in and around the city that serves as the main en­try point for food and aid, the Unhcr said. the gover­norate’s pop­u­la­tion is around 3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Nor­we­gian refugee Coun­cil.

the Unhcr also ex­pressed con­cern over the safety of those trapped in hodeida as the in­ten­si­fied mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions “are in­creas­ingly con­fin­ing pop­u­la­tions and cut­ting off exit routes.” Fig­ures on those still in hodeida are dif­fi­cult to gauge, the agency added.

ye­meni gov­ern­ment forces sup­ported by the coali­tion’s air and naval forces con­tinue to en­gage in heavy fight­ing with the rebels, known as houthis. the fight­ing has killed dozens of com­bat­ants from both sides, with dozens of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles de­stroyed or burn­ing along the front lines.

in a state­ment Fri­day, ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment based in the south­ern city of aden said its forces are ad­vanc­ing to­ward the north and west of hodeida and across all fronts with cover from the coali­tion.

also on Fri­day, the World health or­ga­ni­za­tion said the vi­o­lence in hodeida is in close prox­im­ity to the city’s health fa­cil­i­ties, im­ped­ing their abil­ity to func­tion and restrict­ing the move­ment of health staff, pa­tients and am­bu­lances.

the Saudi-led coali­tion’s lat­est push to­ward hodeida comes as ye­men’s civil war is a few months away from en­ter­ing its fourth year. the coali­tion in­ter­vened in ye­men in march 2015 with the aim of de­feat­ing the iran-aligned rebels and to re­store the gov­ern­ment of abed rabbo man­sour hadi. but the coali­tion has re­cently come un­der mount­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to end the war that has re­sulted in what the Un says is the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

the fight­ing around the city, a vi­tal life­line for most of ye­men’s pop­u­la­tion, threat­ens to worsen ye­men’s al­ready-dire hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion and risks the ob­struc­tion of cru­cial as­sis­tance to the coun­try en­dan­ger­ing the lives of mil­lions of ye­me­nis.

Getty iMaGes

Ye­meni pro-gov­ern­ment forces gather on the eastern out­skirts of Hodeida as they con­tinue to bat­tle for the con­trol of the city from Houthi rebels.

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