Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Saudi-led coalition launches attack on Yemen’s ‘humanitarian lifeline’ of Hodeidah

Saudi-led coalition launches attack on Yemen’s ‘humanitarian lifeline’ of Hodeidah

But humanitarian groups and experts have warned that an offensive on Hodeida, through which 80 percent of Yemen's aid comes, could devastate the already war-ravaged country.

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The battle for Hudaydah, which is held by the Houthi movement, is expected to be by far the biggest of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-backed Houthis.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the main coalition partners, had commented on the claim at the time of writing, but Jane's has previously revealed that they have not reported earlier Yemeni rebel attacks on their naval vessels in the Red Sea.

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.

"The United States has been clear and consistent that we will not support actions that destroy key infrastructure or that are likely to exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation that has expanded in this stalemated conflict", said the spokesperson, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the matter and asked not to be named.

Coalition warplanes and warships were carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said in a statement.

Residents of coastal villages and districts around southern Hodeidah had left their homes ahead of the fighting.

The officials say the forces assigned to break into the city are comprised of three brigades of UAE-backed Amaleqa bridges.

Having failed to stop the UAE from acting, the US military has helped Gulf allies develop a list of targets that should be off-limits, according to several reports citing unnamed USA officials.

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Yemen's exiled government says their forces and allied Saudi-led troops launched their assault on Hodeida only after "exhausting all peaceful and political means".

It added that recapturing the port city will be the beginning for "liberating" all of Yemen from rebels, including the capital Sanaa. The port is some 150 kilometres southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital held by the Houthis since they swept into the city in September 2014. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the start of the battle.

Responding to the early stages of the attack-which began with an estimated 30 Saudi airstrikes within half an hour, guided by USA military intelligence-Win Without War wrote on Twitter that the attack is "a dark moment of shame for the United States".

Citing sources within the military, Dubai-based Al Arabiya said the battle began early Wednesday morning.

Yemen's government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

Before dawn on Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading toward the rebel-held city, according to videos posted on social media. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard in the background.

Forces loyal to Yemen's exiled government and irregular fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days.

The United Nations fears the assault could drastically worsen already desperate conditions in the region's poorest country.

"The liberation of the city & port will create a new reality & bring the Houthis to the negotiations", Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Tuesday.

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