Yemen forces launch assault on rebel-held city
AL JAH (AFP) — Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive Wednesday to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, a key aid hub, sparking calls from the international community for restraint.
Pro-government troops began the assault despite mounting international fears about the humanitarian fallout, pressing toward Hodeida airport south of the city after receiving a “green light” from the coalition.
By Wednesday night, the offensive remained on the outskirts of the rebel-held airport.
The Red Sea port, controlled by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who hail from northern Yemen, serves as the entry point for 70 percent of the impoverished country’s imports as it teeters on the brink of famine.
The official United Arab Emirates news agency WAM confirmed that the operation was ongoing “with the participation and the support, through land and sea and air, of the Emirati armed forces.”
It added that the attacking forces managed to “liberate areas ... in the surroundings of the airport” and captured and killed “dozens of Huthi” rebels.
The U.N. Security Council will meet on Thursday for urgent talks on the offensive, diplomats said, after a request from Britain. The closed-door meeting will be the second this week on the Yemen crisis.
The request came after the U.N. envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was still holding negotiations on keeping the key port open to aid deliveries.
“We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hodeida that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties,” he said.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief warned of the “devastating” impact the assault would have.
“The latest developments will only lead to further escalation and instability in Yemen,” Federica Mogherini said in a statement.