At­tack on key port ex­ac­er­bates hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Ye­men

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD -

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.

Na­bil Has­san / AFP/Getty Im­ages

Ye­meni pro-govern­ment fight­ers pa­trol Wed­nes­day in an area south of the air­port in the port city of Hodeida.

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