HH Amir con­doles UAE over loss of 4 mar­tyrs in Ye­men

Bat­tle for key Ye­men port leaves dozens dead

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

KUWAIT CITY/SANAA, June 14, (Agen­cies): His High­ness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of con­do­lences on Wed­nes­day to UAE Pres­i­dent Sheikh Khal­ifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, ex­press­ing his sin­cere sym­pa­thy for the four mar­tyred sol­diers of UAE Armed Forces dur­ing the bat­tle to free Hodei­dah, part of the Op­er­a­tion “Restor­ing Hope” to sup­port the le­git­i­macy in Ye­men.

His High­ness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf AlAh­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah sent sim­i­lar ca­bles to the UAE Pres­i­dent.

Mean­while, Kuwait’s Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Mar­zouq Al-Ghanim also sent on Wed­nes­day a cable of con­do­lences to UAE Speaker of the Fed­eral Na­tional Coun­cil Dr Amal Al-Qubaisi over the mar­tyr­dom of the four sol­diers of the UAE.

Ye­meni pro-gov­ern­ment forces were locked in heavy fight­ing with rebels that left 39 peo­ple dead on Thurs­day, as they pressed a Saudi and UAE-backed of­fen­sive to re­take the key aid hub of Hodeida.

The clashes came as the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pre­pared to hold ur­gent talks on the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, which Rus­sia warned could have “cat­a­strophic con­se­quences” for the en­tire coun­try.

Ye­meni forces backed by a Saudi-led coali­tion launched an as­sault on Wed­nes­day to re­take the port city of Hodeida, which has been con­trolled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels along with the cap­i­tal Sanaa since 2014.

The Houthis suf­fered 30 fa­tal­i­ties on Thurs­day in clashes near Hodeida air­port south of the city, med­i­cal sources told AFP.

Nine pro-gov­ern­ment troops were killed in the same area, the medics said. Mil­i­tary sources said the deaths

were caused by mines and snipers.

The UAE, a driv­ing force in the coali­tion, said four of its troops were killed on the first day of the of­fen­sive Wed­nes­day in­clud­ing at least one navy of­fi­cer.

The Houthis ear­lier said they had struck a coali­tion ship off the coast of Hodeida with two mis­siles.

On Thurs­day, au­thor­i­ties at Hodeida port said the Red Sea life­line re­mained open to ship­ping.

“We still have seven ships in the port. The work in the port is nor­mal. And we have five other ships stand­ing by wait­ing out­side to en­ter,” port direc­tor Dawood Fadel told AFP.

Two Saudi and UAE aid ships were in the wa­ters off Hodeida, coali­tion spokesman Turki al-Ma­liki told Saudi state me­dia.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which in­ter­vened against the Huthis in 2015 with the goal of restor­ing Ye­men’s gov­ern­ment to power, have pledged to en­sure a con­tin­u­ous flow of aid to the Arab world’s poor­est na­tion.

Ab­dul­lah al-Rabeeah, the head of Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man Aid and Re­lief Cen­tre, in a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day night sought to al­lay the fears of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“This coali­tion will start to op­er­ate an air and sea bridge, as well as land, to trans­port aid and med­i­cal sup­plies, food, shel­ter and fuel other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties to Hodeida prov­ince,” he told re­porters.

In­ter­na­tional aid groups have long warned against an of­fen­sive on Hodeida be­cause the port serves as the en­try point for 70 per­cent of Ye­men’s im­ports, as the coun­try teeters on the brink of famine.

“The at­tacks we have feared and warned against are no longer im­pend­ing, but un­der­way,” the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil’s act­ing coun­try direc­tor Christo­pher Mzembe said Thurs­day.

“As airstrikes in­ten­sify and front­lines move closer to Hodeida city, so does the very real threat of harm to civil­ians in Hodeida,” he said, urg­ing the war­ring par­ties to re­turn to po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the NRC, nearly 15 per­cent of Ye­men’s sus­pected cholera cases have oc­curred in Hodeida gov­er­norate.

The in­ter­na­tional aid group warned of a “high risk of a sec­ond out­break” should wa­ter sup­plies be dis­rupted.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has raised alarm over the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, which it says could crip­ple des­per­ately needed de­liv­er­ies of com­mer­cial goods and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to mil­lions in the aid-de­pen­dent coun­try.

“The of­fen­sive against Hodeida risks trig­ger­ing cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for all of Ye­men,” Rus­sia’s for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment on Thurs­day ahead of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing later in the day.

The pop­u­la­tion may find it­self “on the brink of death” if the fight­ing leads to a block­ade of the port, it said.

Moscow added that the as­sault would deal a ma­jor blow to the “pros-

pects of a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment”.

Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised gov­ern­ment ear­lier pro­nounced ne­go­ti­a­tions had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and a grace pe­riod for UN-led peace ef­forts was over.

Aides to the Ye­meni pres­i­dent, who has spent much of the war in ex­ile in Riyadh, said he was pre­par­ing Thurs­day to visit the south­ern port city of Aden, where the gov­ern­ment set up its base af­ter it was ousted from Sanaa.

“Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi will ar­rive to the in­terim cap­i­tal of Aden in the com­ing hours ... from Saudi Ara­bia, along with a num­ber of his ad­vi­sors and se­nior of­fi­cials,” a se­nior Ye­meni gov­ern­ment source told AFP.

Ye­meni Prime Min­is­ter Ahmed bin Dagher re­turned to Aden early Thurs­day, the source said, with a num­ber of min­is­ters from Cairo.

Swe­den mean­while, called on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to de­mand an im­me­di­ate halt to the Saudi-led coali­tion’s of­fen­sive on a key port in Ye­men, to al­low time for talks to avert a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter.

The coun­cil was set to meet be­hind closed doors to dis­cuss the as­sault launched on Wed­nes­day on rebel-held Hodeida de­spite UN warn­ings of a loom­ing catas­tro­phe in Ye­men, where mil­lions are on the brink of famine.

“It is time for the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to call for an im­me­di­ate freeze of the mil­i­tary at­tack on Hodeida,” said Swedish Deputy Am­bas­sador Carl Skau in a state­ment.

“This is needed to give the spe­cial en­voy and United Na­tions-led ef­forts a chance to avert dis­as­ter and find a sus­tain­able po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict.”

Bri­tain has re­quested the ur­gent talks at the coun­cil — the sec­ond time this week that the coun­cil will be meet­ing on the cri­sis in Ye­men.

Swe­den, a non-per­ma­nent coun­cil mem­ber, is a strong voice on hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues.

Saudi air de­fences on Thurs­day in­ter­cepted a bal­lis­tic mis­sile fired from rebel-held ter­ri­tory in neigh­bour­ing Ye­men, state me­dia re­ported, as a Riyadh-led mil­i­tary coali­tion pushes a ma­jor of­fen­sive to cap­ture a strate­gic port.

The mis­sile was in­ter­cepted over Khamis Mushait in the king­dom’s south, but no ca­su­al­ties were re­ported, the coali­tion said in a state­ment re­leased by the of­fi­cial Saudi Press

Agency.

The Iran-backed rebels claimed in a state­ment that the mis­sile hit a Saudi air base.

The in­sur­gents, who have ramped up mis­sile at­tacks against Saudi Ara­bia, are of­ten known to claim suc­cess­ful strikes.

The king­dom, which leads a mil­i­tary coali­tion that has fought the in­sur­gents since 2015, usu­ally claims to in­ter­cept most mis­siles.

On Sun­day, Saudi air de­fences in­ter­cepted a bal­lis­tic mis­sile over the south­ern city of Jizan, but no ca­su­al­ties were re­ported, state me­dia said.

A day ear­lier, three civil­ians were killed in Jizan when Houthi rebels fired a “pro­jec­tile” at the prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to the coali­tion.

Saudi Ara­bia last month tested a new siren sys­tem for the cap­i­tal Riyadh and the oil-rich Eastern Prov­ince, in a sign of the in­creas­ing threat posed by the rebels’ arms.

Riyadh ac­cuses its re­gional ri­val Tehran of sup­ply­ing the Houthis with bal­lis­tic mis­siles, a charge Iran de­nies.

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