Attack on key port exacerbates humanitarian crisis in Yemen
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Arab military coalition invaded Yemen’s main Red Sea port on Wednesday, worsening what is already the world’s most severe humanitarian disaster by disrupting the delivery of food and other supplies to millions of Yemenis.
The air and ground attack by forces loyal to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was aimed at tipping the balance in Yemen’s long-running civil war and driving Iranianbacked rebels out of the port of Hodeida. Although fighting appeared to be limited to the outskirts of the city on Wednesday, the prospect of sustained fighting there stands to produce one of the bloodiest urban battles of the war, deepening what is already a catastrophic humanitarian situation. After years of war, 8 million of Yemen’s estimated 28 million people are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations and aid agencies. The U.N. and the International Committee for the Red Cross withdrew most of their staff members from the city.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has been sharply criticized for the decision to carry out an air war in Yemen, keeping Saudi casualties low but killing thousands of Yemeni civilians. The airstrikes have created the conditions for one of the world’s worst cholera epidemics in 50 years.
The stalemate with the Houthis has raised questions about whether Salman and his ally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the Emirates, have locked their nations in a costly and unwinnable conflict.
The United States has backed the Saudi-led coalition, but U.S. military officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have warned their Arab allies that the assault could end in failure both militarily and politically and result in further civilian suffering.
Nine Senate Republicans and Democrats wrote to Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, expressing “grave alarm” that the offensive would worsen the humanitarian crisis in the country.
Yemeni pro-government fighters patrol Wednesday in an area south of the airport in the port city of Hodeida.