Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Exiled Yemen president goes to UAE as port attack looms

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Andrew Cummings | 17 June, 2018, 13:18

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government launched an assault on Hodeida on Wednesday.

Yemen has been devastated by civil war, with the Houthi movement trying to take control of the country and forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas. "Seven million people are completely reliant every month on food, and more than 7 million on other assistance, from humanitarian organizations", said Mr. Lowcock, who is also UN Humanitarian Coordinator.

State media in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates did not immediately acknowledge the assault.

Before dawn Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading toward the rebel-held city as heavy gunfire rang out.

Saudi-owned satellite news channels later announced the battle had begun, citing military sources.

Worldwide aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 percent of Yemen's food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

Yemeni residents in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida say the Saudi-led coalition has dropped leaflets advising them to stay away from military and security points, and to stay in their homes, amid the coalition's assault.

The Red Sea port handles most of the country's commercial imports and aid supplies, and is a lifeline for some eight million Yemenis - around a third of the population.

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"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.

Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster. He said the U.N. Security Council must act to secure a cease-fire before the people of Hodeida "suffer the same fate as those in Aleppo, Mosul or Raqqa".

The Security Council has strongly supported efforts by new United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths to resume political negotiations and avoid a military escalation of the three-year-long conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million, and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Red Sea port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen's imports as the country teeters on the brink of starvation.

Yemen's government declared Tuesday night that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over. The port is 90 miles south west of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, which has been in Houthi hands since September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015.

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

"We hear sounds of explosions".

"We do not provide any additional support to the Saudi coalition's military operations", he said.

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