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18 Sep, 2018 09:15

Saudi-led coalition launches large-scale assault on Yemen’s vital port of Hodeidah

Saudi-led coalition launches large-scale assault on Yemen’s vital port of Hodeidah

The Saudi-led coalition has renewed a large-scale offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, ending a months-long effort led by the UN to bring hostilities to a halt.

“The Saudi-led Arab Coalition forces continue military operations in Yemen's Red Sea Coast, in cooperation with the Joint Yemeni Resistance Forces,” Commander of the Arab Coalition taskforce, Brigadier Ali Al Tunaiji, told Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The Arab Coalition and Joint Yemeni Resistance Forces managed to capture a stretch of road between Kilo 6 and Kilo 10 near Hodeidah, cutting off a major Houthi supply route that runs from the port city to other rebel-controlled areas. Saudi-loyal troops were also able to reinforce Kilo 16, Al Tunaiji noted, pointing out that “dozens” of Houthis have either been killed or captured in the renewed offensive.

The Red Sea port of Hodeidah has been under siege from Saudi-led forces trying to recapture the city of some 600,000 people from Houthi rebels since June. While the Saudi loyalists managed to take control of a number of towns across Hodeida province, they have yet to breach the city, despite the Saudi-led airstrikes.

The UN has previously warned that the Saudi military campaign in the area could end up killing as many as 250,000 civilians, as an assault on the port could shut down one of the last remaining lifelines for millions of hungry civilians in the war-torn country. Meanwhile, civilians remain trapped in the city despite an appeal by international organizations to open a safe passage for them to escape.

Monday night’s offensive against the port city began after the UN failed to broker a deal between the warring parties following a temporary ceasefire that was announced by the Arab Coalition in late June. The sides were supposed to meet in Geneva on September 6 to discuss a possible resolution to the years-long conflict, but talks failed to start after the Houthi delegation failed to secure a guarantee from the United Nations that their flight to Geneva would not be searched by Saudi coalition forces.

The three-year-long conflict has claimed the lives of at least 6,660 civilians, according to a recent UN report, as the war-torn country continues to face one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Throughout the campaign, the Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of indiscriminately bombing civilians. The coalition has also been criticized for imposing a blockade on Yemen’s ports and airspace, which are hindering the deliveries of aid to the country.

Despite the criticism, Al Tunaiji noted, that the coalition will do its best to secure the safety of civilians in Hodeidah. “The military operations in Hodeidah Governorate are being carried out under perfect and well-studied plans that take into consideration safety of the citizens and avoiding any harms to civilians who are being used as human shields by the militias to protect their defeated fighters,” he said.

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