Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Saudi Arabia And Its Allies Strike Yemen's Main Port City

Saudi Arabia And Its Allies Strike Yemen's Main Port City

The assault on the Red Sea port aims to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and a victory could be a major shift in a war that has been stalemated.

Other aid officials warn an attack on the port would set back chances of a political settlement and make it hard for the flow of aid to continue. Houthi forces have fired such missiles at ships previously.

"These are the last and final hours to get unconditional guarantees that the Houthis will leave the port", UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Reuters, but declined to discuss military operations.

Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition started an assault on Wednesday on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, which is held by Iranian-backed Houthis, according to Al-Arabiya television.

A source from the Yemeni National Resistance said that a large number of forces from Brigades AlAmalaqah and the Tihama Resistance Forces, armed with modern weapons and in high morale, have arrived at the outskirts of Al Hodeidah city to continue their build-up in the front lines in preparation for the battle of rolling back the Houthi militias and putting and end to the coup plot in Yemen.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops have neared Hodeida in recent days. The United Nations and worldwide aid organizations pulled staff out of the city and surrounding area before the deadline. Some 70 percent of Yemen's food enters the country via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

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. The support has continued despite global alarm over the coalition's air campaign against the Houthis, which has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes that human rights groups have alleged are frequently indiscriminate.

Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way
Saudi-led coalition launches assault on Yemen’s Houthi-held key port city of Hodeida

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

"Parties to the conflict must now prepare to bear responsibility for any violations of International Humanitarian Law, particularly the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructures such as medical facilities, schools and the port facilities, for which the U.N. Security Council must ensure accountability". However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis. An assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation", Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said.

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.

"It's providing any intel, or anything we can give to show no-fire areas where there are civilians, where there's mosques, hospitals, that sort of thing - (and) aerial refueling, so nobody feels like I've got to drop the bomb and get back now", he said.

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 Tehran.

The coalition says one of the main justifications for its intervention is to protect Red Sea shipping, which brings Middle East oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal.

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