Ye­men forces launch as­sault on port city

The Nation - - WORLD -

YE­MENI FORCES backed by a Saudiled coali­tion have launched an of­fen­sive 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 on Wednesday de­spite mount­ing in­ter­na­tional fears about the hu­man­i­tar­ian fall­out, press­ing to­ward Hodeida air­port south of the city af­ter re­ceiv­ing a “green light” from the coali­tion.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was to meet yes­ter­day 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.

By Wednesday night, the of­fen­sive re­mained on the out­skirts of the re­bel­held air­port.

The Red Sea port, con­trolled by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who hail from north­ern Ye­men, serves as the en­try point for 70 per cent 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 re­quest for the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing came af­ter the UN 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.

US Sec­re­tary of De­fense Jim Mat­tis has said he “strongly sup­ports” Grif­fiths’ ef­forts “to bring all sides of the con­flict to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table”.

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