United Nations warns against consequences of Saudi-led attack on Yemen's Hudaydah

13 June, 2018, 17:22 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

However, the Houthi rebels have repeatedly refused a deal to hand over control of the Al Hodeidah port to UN-monitored global forces.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their global staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumored assault.

Emirati-led troops have advanced along the southwestern coast to the outskirts of Hodeidah under a strategy to box in the Houthis in the capital Sanaa and cut off their supply lines to force them to the negotiating table.

The United Nations had led an intensive diplomatic push to avert the offensive, which the Saudi-led coalition, and especially the United Arab Emirates, had always been determined to pursue. Some 70 percent of Yemen's food enters the country via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

"We fear that a prolonged attack or siege on Hodeidah could be catastrophic for civilians", Lise Grande, the UN's head Yemen humanitarian coordinator, previously told the Wall Street Journal, adding that 250,000 of the city's 400,000 people could be killed.

Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as Iranian proxies, but the rebels deny receiving military support from Tehran. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had said that Mr Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation.

Both the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians following the latest air and ground assault.

"Under global humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive", said Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.


Washington had also cautioned against the assault.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators including leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to express their "grave alarm" about circumstances in Hodeida.

It said: "The Emiratis have informed us today that they will now give a three-day grace period for the United Nations (and their partners) to leave the city".

The Sunni Muslim Gulf states intervened in Yemen to restore the exiled government and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as expansionist objectives of their Shi'ite foe Iran.

The exiled Yemeni government said in a statement issued by its media office said that cCoalition warplanes and warships were carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port in operation "Golden Victory".

Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the world's most important trade routes, where oil tankers pass from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.

But once it became clear the Emirates would not hold back its allied Yemeni forces, American officials said they were focused instead on trying to ensure the operation did not damage key infrastructure such as the port as well as to ensure civilian sites did not become targets.

UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimy said if the port was no longer under Houthi control then the coalition could ease controls aimed at denying arms to the group by doing away with inspections at the Saudi port of Jizan.

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities - accusations denied by the group and Iran.

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