Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

The Battle for Hodeidah: Yemeni forces announce new push

The Battle for Hodeidah: Yemeni forces announce new push

Aid groups warned of the plight of civilians in Yemen's contested Hodeida where casualties are mounting as a Saudi-led coalition is fighting to take the port city from the country's Shiite rebels.

The decision was announced by Saudi Arabia on Saturday and confirmed by the U.S., coming at a time of mounting global outcry over the high number of civilian casualties and the murder of Jamal Khoshoggi.

The Saudi acknowledgement, and later USA comments, appeared aimed at suggesting the kingdom was behind the decision.

FILE - Yemeni men carry the coffin of a boy who was killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, during a funeral in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 13, 2018.

"The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country's borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region", he said in a statement.

Senator Chris Murphy emphasized that the Trump administration should cut off all forms of support for the Saudi-led coalition, not just refueling.

The Pentagon has provided refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.

Yet even with that refuelling support, Saudi Arabia has faced widespread global criticism over its campaign of airstrikes in the coalition's war in Yemen, targeting Shiite rebels known as Houthis who hold the capital, Sanaa. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.

According to US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, the decision to end the arrangement came from the Saudis, though it follows a period of intense scrutiny of Washington's ties to Riyadh and the war it is waging.

The refueling decision, which was first reported by The Washington Post, has been under discussion for a few weeks.

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The decision came after a request from the coalition members for a cessation of U.S. refueling as they have increased their own independent capabilities to refuel aircraft inflight, the coalition said.

The push against the Iran-backed rebels also known as Houthis who are holding Hodeida began anew this month, shortly after the United States called for a cease-fire by the end of the month.

"We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict, led by United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths", Mattis said. However, Griffiths' effort to revive peace talks in September fell through after the Houthis failed to attend, arguing they didn't have guarantees for their safe return.

A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt the refuelling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress. USA officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Senate staffers were asked about the issue Thursday and whether their bosses would support it. "If there is a halt to the airstrikes, then we can proceed to political negotiations".

In recent days, fighting intensified with troops trained by the United Arab Emirates, a coalition member, advanced in eastern Hodeida, pushing toward the city's port and key Red Sea facilities, some 5 kilometres away.

The Yemeni Joint Resistance forces took full control of new strategic areas in western areas of Hodeidah, while continuing their advance towards As Saleh city, located in the east of Hodeidah.

As per various media reports, almost 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of starvation.

He told them cutting off support could jeopardize cooperation on counterterrorism and reduce American influence with Saudi Arabia. At the end of October, Mattis joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in calling for a ceasefire.

Yemeni forces managed to kill and capture dozens of Houthi fighters who lost their strategic positions within the city of Hodeidah. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their worldwide backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people".

"Hodeida is at risk of being obliterated", said Mohamed Abdi of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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