Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Saudi-led troops fight rebel forces south of Yemen’s Hodeida

Saudi-led troops fight rebel forces south of Yemen’s Hodeida

So far, the Arab states have not tried to capture such a heavily defended major city since joining the war three years ago against the Iran-aligned Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, and most of the populated areas.

"People in the governorate have reported heavy airstrikes along coastal areas and roads in districts south of Hodeida city", the council said.

The Huthis suffered 30 fatalities on Thursday in the clashes, medical sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

On Monday, the UN Security Council said it supported Griffiths' diplomatic efforts but did not specifically call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida.

One official says more than 2,000 troops trained in a military base in Eretria, have arrived at the port of Hodeida, assigned to secure the facility. Emirati state news agency WAM announced that four UAE soldiers were killed on Wednesday in Yemen.

Houthi rebels, meanwhile, said they had struck a coalition warship with missiles although there was no confirmation of this. There was no independent confirmation of the report. The work in the port is normal.

"As with all other coalition offensives in the civil war, the coalition would not be able to mount the Hodeidah offensive without United States refueling and intelligence support", Kate Kizer, the policy director for Win Without War, a coalition of anti-war activist groups, told Al-Monitor. "[Hudaydah] would have been another port they could have controlled", the source said.

The action, dubbed by the Saudis as "Operation Golden Victory", involves a relatively large force, using both air and sea bombardment.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which intervened against the Huthis in 2015 with the goal of restoring Yemen's government to power, have pledged to ensure a continuous flow of aid to the Arab world's poorest nation.

"Equally vital is that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Huthi forces ensure the flow of aid and essential goods isn't impeded in any way, as millions of people remain at risk of starvation across the country".

The U.N. says some 600,000 people live in and around Hodeida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault.

Save the Children on Wednesday said 300,000 children were in the line of fire.

Aid agencies warned that such adventure could cost the lives of 400,000 civilians.

Joost Hilterman, program director for the Middle East for the International Crisis Group, said the future of the port city - and the war as a whole - had to be decided through negotiations, as a military defeat seemed unlikely.

The UN Security Council plans to meet for urgent talks later on Thursday, following the launch of the offensive on the Yemeni port.

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

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that he was in touch with the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, about how the US might potentially support the global body's humanitarian efforts, and try to "drive this to a negotiated... end of the fighting".

"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.

While Satterfield reiterated that "there should be no interruption of access to and through Hodeidah" or damage of critical infrastructure, he did not equivocally call for the US-backed parties to halt their offensive.

In a statement responding to the potentially catastrophic attack on Hodeidah, Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, took aim at both the USA and the United Kingdom for providing crucial political and military support for the Saudi-led assault, arguing that such complicity reveals "the true face of their foreign policy".

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