Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Yemen's rebel-held Hudaida under assault from Saudi-led coalition

Yemen's rebel-held Hudaida under assault from Saudi-led coalition

Saudi media is reporting that the official start of the attack on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition forces began an assault on the country's largest port, June 13, 2018.

It cited American military officials as saying that the United States is helping the UAE develop a list of targets meant to be off limits for airstrikes on Hudaydah, with an apparent aim to minimize civilian casualties. Locals reported convoys of vehicles speeding toward the city, and heavy gunfire was reported around the outskirts of the city.

The conflict escalated dramatically in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states - backed by the US, UK, and France - began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Mr Hadi's government.

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier told French newspaper Le Figaro the deadline for a withdrawal from Hudaida by the Houthis expired early on Wednesday morning. "Not only does the IRC and other humanitarian aid agencies have staff on the ground working to deliver lifesaving aid, but 400,000 innocent civilian lives are at stake", Frank McManus, the Yemen country director for the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday. Yemen is heavily dependent on imported food, fuel and medicine that come through Hodeidah port.

Hodeidah, Yemen's biggest port and the only port controlled by the Houthis, serves as the lifeline for the majority of Yemen's population, which lives in Houthi-ruled territory.

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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.

"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".

Al Hodeidah, the second largest port in the country, is the main conduit for humanitarian supplies into a country teetering on the brink of starvation.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million more and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

Neither the coalition nor the rebels have confirmed the death of the leader's brother, the Saudi Khabar Ajil media said.

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"We have had more than 30 airstrikes within 30 minutes this morning around the city".

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said that U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths was in "intense negotiations" in an attempt to avoid a military confrontation.

The Houthi militia has repeatedly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, which the United States and UN experts say are of Iranian origin, a claim Tehran denies. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations might have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks.

Speaking to reporters this week, Mattis said that US support would continue at its current levels, and suggested USA aerial refueling, which lengthens flight times, increased the accuracy of Saudi and UAE bombing raids and so cut down on civilian casualties.

"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 refuelling, so nobody feels like I've got to drop the bomb and get back now", he said.

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