250,000 people could die if Saudi-led coalition attacks Yemeni port city Hodeidah – UN official
Days after it was reported that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is seeking US support to recapture the port city of Hodeidah from Houthi rebels, a UN official in the country says such an attack could claim up to 250,000 lives.
"A military attack or siege on Hodeidah will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent lives," Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in a Friday statement.
"In a prolonged worst case, we fear that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything — even their lives."
Her comments come just five days after The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the Saudi-led coalition is seeking direct help from the US to regain the port city which 400,000 people call home.
That report prompted warnings from various human rights groups, with the fear that a large amount of lives could be lost - not just because the city is densely populated, but because others outside the city also depend on goods coming into the port.
Norwegian Refugee Council spokesman Daniel Gorevan told RT that Hodeidah "is essentially a lifeline for millions of struggling Yemenis. Twenty-two million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and the goods and the fuel and the medicine that comes through Hodeidah is a lifeline for those people."
An assault on Hodeidah is being seen as an extremely possible scenario for foreign nationals in the city who have fled the area. "Foreign workers, mostly from Arab and other countries, left Hodeidah for fear of their lives as they may be exploited or used as human shields by the Houthi rebels," a local military official told the Chinese Xinhua news agency, on condition of anonymity.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also confirmed on Thursday that it is withdrawing 71 staff members out of Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition launched more than 15 strikes on Hodeidah province on Sunday, according to Saba News Agency. That same day, Houthis vowed to continue their fight for the port city, saying "the West Coast will be a graveyard for the invaders and mercenaries.”
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Refugee Council's regional director for East Africa and Yemen, has called for an investigation into a recent airstrike on the capital Sanaa that injured seven civilians, including four children, and almost hit the NGO's office.
Yemen has been engaged in a civil war since March 2015, with the Saudi-led coalition waging a campaign to restore former president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. An ongoing aerial bombardment and blockade of the country has contributed to millions of people needing humanitarian assistance, pushed people to the brink of famine, and led to a major cholera outbreak.
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