Ye­meni hordes flee Saudi-led on­slaught

Bat­tle for Red Sea port city also tak­ing toll on health fa­cil­i­ties,WHO says

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - MENNA ZAKI In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Lolita C. Bal­dor and Matthew Lee of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

CAIRO — Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ye­me­nis from the Hodeida area have been forced to flee dur­ing a Saudi-led coali­tion of­fen­sive to take the key Red Sea port city from Shi­ite rebels, the United Na­tions’ refugee agency said Fri­day, as fierce bat­tles con­tinue to rage in the area.

Some 445,000 of 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 United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees said. The gov­er­norate’s pop­u­la­tion is around 3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil.

The U.N. refugee agency 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 Fri­day state­ment, 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 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 mem­bers, 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 Iranaligned rebels and restor­ing 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 U.N. 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 dire hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion and risks the ob­struc­tion of cru­cial as­sis­tance to the coun­try en­dan­ger­ing the lives of mil­lions of Ye­me­nis.

Mean­while, the Saudi king­dom an­nounced late Fri­day that the United States will stop re­fu­el­ing Saudi Ara­bian air­craft fight­ing Houthi rebels in Ye­men. U.S. of­fi­cials said ear­lier Fri­day that the Pen­tagon was tak­ing steps to end the ar­range­ment.

Other U.S. of­fi­cials said the re­fu­el­ing change does not af­fect the U.S. mil­i­tary as­sis­tance and train­ing to im­prove the Saudi airstrikes. As a re­sult, any de­ci­sion to halt the U.S. re­fu­el­ing likely will have lit­tle ef­fect on the fight.

The of­fi­cials, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions, said Saudi Ara­bia was al­ready pro­vid­ing 80 per­cent of its re­fu­el­ing, and its ca­pac­ity was grow­ing.

The Saudi state­ment said it had “in­creased its ca­pa­bil­ity to in­de­pen­dently con­duct in­flight re­fu­el­ing,” and there­fore “re­quested ces­sa­tion of in­flight re­fu­el­ing sup­port for its op­er­a­tions in Ye­men.”

The re­fu­el­ing de­ci­sion, which was first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Post, has been un­der dis­cus­sion for a few weeks, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials. Saudi Ara­bia has been pay­ing the U.S. for the re­fu­el­ing, but there were no de­tails on how much that cost.

The Pen­tagon on Fri­day would say only that the U.S. con­tin­ues to have dis­cus­sions with the Saudis, and that there is no de­ci­sion to re­port at this time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.