Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

13 Junio, 2018, 14:25 | Author: Kelly Blake
  • Battle for Yemen's biggest port under way

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 and has received logistical support from the United States.

The UN said 600,000 people live in and around Hodeidah, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in an assault.

Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in Al Faza area near Hudaida earlier this month.

Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for worldwide cooperation, has said if the port is wrested from the Houthis, the coalition could ease controls aimed at denying the group arms and ease the flow of goods and aid into Yemen, where millions face starvation and disease.

Yemen's exiled government "has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeidah", it said in a statement.

The sources said Yemeni forces allied to the Saudi-led coalition - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh - had advanced and were "at the doors" of Hodeidah airport.

The alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven from the capital Sanaa and into exile in 2014. They say they took power through a popular revolt against corruption and are now defending Yemen from an invasion by its Western-backed neighbours.

"I think the Emiratis have done a good job in presenting compelling arguments about why an operation (on Hodeidah) could in the end tip the balance and apply enough pressure to bring the Houthis to the table", a Western diplomat said on Monday. "This is possibly what we're most concerned about".

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"If the current situation continues we will have a stalemate politically", he said.

The UAE foreign ministry and government communication office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The United Nations and aids groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday for all sides to protect civilians.

The renewed push on Hodeidah comes amid increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and arch-foe Iran after the United States withdrew last month from an global nuclear agreement with Tehran, a move hailed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Al Arabiya television also reported that an offensive had been launched, but there was no immediate word from the state media in either Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers, which pass near Yemen's shores while heading from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.

Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities - accusations denied by the group and Tehran.

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