United Nations still in talks on Yemen port, envoy urges restraint

Geneva Stokes
June 15, 2018

For their part the Houthis must not compromise port facilities or hinder the humanitarian response.

Through this period and in many occasions, the Arab coalition has called for an worldwide action to put a halt to rockets and weapons smuggling through aid campaigns entering Yemen from Hodeidah port, demanding to no vain, that the global community should send humanitarian organizations to monitor the aid shipment entering Yemen.

Col. Turki al-Malki, a Saudi military spokesman, said coalition forces were some six kilometers (three miles) from the airfield, in an interview with the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al Arabiya. "That was the situation before, and now it is going to get worse".

The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement.

Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen June 1, 2018.

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".

The best way to avoid the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis in Hodeidah is that the Houthi militias should hand over the management of the port to the United Nations.

The UAE, a driving force in the coalition, said four of its troops were killed on the first day of the offensive Wednesday including at least one navy officer.

The UAE has said coalition forces plan to keep the port operational but warned that the Houthis could sabotage infrastructure and place land and sea mines as they withdraw. There was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.

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

The city of Hodeida, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa.

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Capturing Hodeidah would give the coalition a major boost in the war.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their worldwide staff from Hodeida ahead of the assault.

The ship was operating in the Red Sea off the embattled Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. In a report in January, the panel cited the fact that ships coming into the port face random inspections, require United Nations approval and that no weapons have been seized since March 2017.

Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster.

"The assault on Hodeidah could have a devastating impact for hundreds of thousands of civilians - not just in the city but throughout Yemen", Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement.

"The population has already been weakened to extreme levels", he said.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic. "The administration and the Saudis should take this language as yet another clear signal that Congress will not stand idly by as the US-supported coalition continues to kill and starve civilians in Yemen with impunity".

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle in Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities.

The United Nations has raised alarm over the military operation, which could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen who are on the brink of starvation.

They say the fighting is raging in the coastal areas of ad-Durayhimi district. The sound of heavy, sustained gunfire clearly could be heard. According to the Houthis, a pair of missiles struck a landing ship as it was conveying equipment and personnel ashore, leading to the retreat of a flotilla of coalition vessels and a search and rescue operation. "Hudaydah's residents are some of the poorest people in Yemen, and many of them haven't gotten paid in 20 months", Kurd said Wednesday via the WhatsApp messaging service.

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