Yemen war: United Nations calls for vital port of Hudaydah to stay open

Geneva Stokes
June 17, 2018

"We do not provide any additional support to the Saudi coalition's military operations", Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine Galloway said.

It also said that UAE forces and local allies had penetrated the Houthis' front line on the airport perimeter.

A Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni fighters backing the country's government were on the verge of seizing control of the airport of a vital rebel-held port as fighting intensified Friday, with pro-government forces within meters (yards) of the airport gates.

Western countries have quietly backed the Arab coalition, but the threat of humanitarian catastrophe could unravel that support.

A fresh Saudi airstrike on Yemeni city of Sa'ada has killed seven civilians including a woman.

Guterres reported that on May 21, the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said in a television interview that Iran provided the Al-Qassam Brigades and other armed groups in the territory with "money, (military) equipment and expertise".

He said it would take Arab forces about 72 hours to clear mines from Hodeidah's port or airport once it captures them.

He said Security Council members were "united in their deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation".

Arab troops appeared poised to enter the airport of Yemen's main port, Hodeidah, on Friday as a Saudi-led alliance prepared to seize the city in the biggest battle of a three-year war. "We can hear the fighting coming close, and the situation is really changing for the worse", the staffer said.

A report by the Saudi-owned satellite network Al Arabiya has quoted commander Abu Zarah al-Mahrami as saying government forces are "within meters" of the airport.

The U.S., which backed the Saudi-led coalition over the past years with intelligence, logistical support and air-to-air refuel of fighter jets, has not publicly opposed the assault but has urged the coalition to ensure that humanitarian aid deliveries to the port continue.

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The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and missiles from Iran.

Meanwhile, a Houthi attack on pro-Yemeni government forces south of the city killed 12 of their soldiers, military and medical sources told AFP.

With logistical support from the USA, the Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out attacks inside Yemen since March 2015, killing at least 10,000 people, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The council met behind closed doors at Britain's request following United Nations warnings of a looming humanitarian disaster from an all-out assault on Hodeida.

In a statement Saturday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "we stand with our United Nations partners to call on all parties to the conflict to protect the port, and allow its uninterrupted functioning". The operation aims to take the port city from the Iranian-backed Houthis. The port of Hodeida is a vital gateway to getting food and other aid to a significant number of these people.

"This comes from this sea port".

Yemen's government said Wednesday that negotiations had failed to force the Houthis from Hudaida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

Britain's United Nations ambassador Karen Pierce, who called the meeting, told reporters before it started that United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths has been trying to negotiate the withdrawal of the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who control Hodeida.

Capturing Hodeidah, the Houthis' only port, would give the coalition the upper hand in the war, in which neither side has made much progress for years.

But in Yemen's protracted civil war, which has killed approximately 10,000 people and led to tens of thousands more deaths from sickness and starvation, worldwide aid agencies are wary of predictions by the Saudis and the Emiratis that they could snatch a quick victory in Hodeida's complex urban environment.

"France has always emphasized that the port city of Hodeidah is one of Yemen's key gateways to bring commercial and humanitarian goods to the civilian population", it added.

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