Saudi Coalition Expects to Seize Yemen Port City Before Humanitarian Crisis

Yemenis drop off boxes of humanitarian aid provided by the Emirati Red Crescent in the coastal town of Mujailis, south of the city of Hodeida, on June 6, 2018. (Photo by NABIL HASSAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read NABIL HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NABIL HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi-led coalition reportedly said this week it can seize Yemen’s main port city of Hodeida from the Iran-allied Houthi rebels quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions and triggering the famine that the United Nations fears would befall the region if the offensive continues.

Referring to the offensive against the port city launched by the Saudi-led coalition and pro-government forces on Wednesday, BBC noted on Friday, “[Hodeida] is a prize they cannot afford to give up on. Their strategic goal is to force the Houthis out of it, thereby depriving them of their main source of revenue and compelling them to sue for peace.”

On Friday, fighters loyal to the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, backed by the alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), took control of the entrance to the Hodeida airport.

“The swift advance was an important early success for the Saudi- and Emirati-led alliance, which launched the operation in Hodeidah three days ago and says it can seize the city quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions facing starvation,” Reuters reported Friday.

Hadi’s government claims its intention is not to launch a military attack on the port, considered the main entry point to Yemen, which heavily relies on the sea to import food and supplies.

“We are not planning to destroy the infrastructure,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany declared, according to BBC, adding, “We are in an area close to the airport, but not to the seaport.”

Citing Yemeni government commanders on the ground, the Associated Press (AP) reported that “fighting intensified on Friday outside the airport” in Hodeida.

Since March 2015, a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition has been trying to push the Iran-allied Houthis out of their stronghold in northern Yemen and restore Hadi to power, to no avail. The war has “turned into a bloody stalemate,” AP reported.

“Unless the Houthis capitulate and withdraw their forces from the city [of Hodeida], the coalition will be forced to decide whether to risk going into the city and fighting street by street, or waiting it out on the outskirts with a prolonged siege. Either scenario is likely to see further suffering for Yemen’s impoverished population,” BBC explained.

AP further added:

The Saudi-led coalition’s assault on the rebel-held port city of Hodeida is the latest attempt to break years of stalemate in Yemen’s devastating civil war.

The conflict pits the U.S.-supported coalition and the internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who are allied with Iran. The Houthis swept into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and the coalition entered the war the following year.

The fighting has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine. Aid groups warn that the attack on Hodeida, the country’s main entry point for food and humanitarian aid, could make a catastrophic situation even worse.

The U.N. and other aid groups fear the battle for the port, Yemen’s main entry point for food and humanitarian aid, could escalate what has already been dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, choking off the delivery of urgently needed assistance and triggering a famine that would imperil millions of lives.

Nevertheless, international body’s security council rejected a move to demand an immediate end to the fighting for the port city. 

Although earlier reports suggested U.S President Donald Trump’s administration increased its assistance to the UAE to minimize civilian casualties and damage to critical infrastructure, more recent articles assert that America has turned down military assistance to the Sunni alliance.

Members from both American parties have expressed opposition to U.S. military involvement in Yemen.

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