Yemeni forces reach surroundings of Hodeidah airport
18 June, 2018, 15:36 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
Fighters backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushed toward the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Thursday, on the second day of a battle that analysts say could be the bloodiest of the Yemen war.
The U.N. Security Council called Thursday on all warring parties in Yemen to keep the key port of Hodeida open, as humanitarians try to deliver critical assistance to about 600,000 civilians in the city.
The port is also a lucrative source of revenue for the Houthis, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014.
The Houthis suffered 30 fatalities yesterday in clashes near Hodeida airport south of the city, medical sources toldAFP.
Apache attack helicopters bombed a strip of coastal territory near the city's airport, forcing many residents and civilians to flee the port city.
The United States rejected a request from the UAE for intelligence, mine-sweeping and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets for the Hodeidah operation, a UAE official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, while noting congressional opposition.
"This coalition will start to operate an air and sea bridge, as well as land, to transport aid and medical supplies, food, shelter and fuel other basic necessities to Hodeida province", he told reporters.
Retaking the port "means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun", the U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a statement.
Late Thursday, Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany told a group of United Nations reporters in NY that military operations by the Saudi-led coalition are not taking place near the port but in an area close to the airport. Abdullah al-Rabeeah, the head of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Aid and Relief Centre, in a press conference Wednesday night sought to allay the fears of the global community.
The assault began Wednesday to seize Hodieda's vital Red Sea port, known as the "mouth of Yemen" because it's the entry point of most of the country's imports and United Nations humanitarian aid.
Ahmed al-Kawkabani, a Yemeni who leads a force known as the Tohama Brigade, told the Associated Press that his forces are now positioned in Dawar al-Hodeida, Arabic for "Hodeida roundabout".
Almost 40 people have been killed in fighting outside Yemen's Hudaydah port, medical sources say.
The Emirati-led ground offensive on Hodeida began in earnest only after the coalition appeared to get the tacit backing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Gregory Johnsen, a resident fellow at the Arabia Foundation in Washington and a former member of a Yemen panel of experts at the U.N. Security Council, suggests that the Trump administration sees eye-to-eye with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi about the need to confront Iran in the Arabian peninsula.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's civil war, which has displaced 2 million others and helped spawn a cholera epidemic.
"Should we leave the Houthis smuggling missiles?"
Yemeni pro-government forces led by Emirati troops advanced to within metres of Hodeidah airport on Friday, Yemeni military officials said.
The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began its assault Wednesday on Hodeida, the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of starvation.
The assault is a dramatic gamble by the Arab states, who insist that they can swiftly capture the port without a major disruption to aid supplies for a country already experiencing the world's most pressing humanitarian crisis. He said, "The Yemeni portis a lifeline for the delivery of aid and the Coalition's air attacks can kill many more people over time through starvation and hunger when damaging such civilian infrastructure".
"Hodeidah is the real lever for the survival and steadfastness of insurgents, not only through its port, but also through accessing a number of sea points along the western coast of Yemen, " he said.
The US marginally backs the Saudi-led coalition, and it announced on Monday that it's helping show the coalition which targets not to hit in order to limit civilian casualties.
The full closure, which the Associated Press reports last took place in 2002, does not affect roads that cross through the forest. Images from the scene showed thick smoke pouring into the air and aerial firefighting resources trying to tamp down the blaze.
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The United Arab Emirates ambassador to U.N. agencies in Geneva maintained the Saudi-Emirati coalition had no choice but to act. Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV quoted witnesses describing "concentrated and intense" bombing near the port itself.
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