UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Aden and Saudi Arabia’s aircraft and ships on Thursday continued to bomb Houthi positions in Yemen’s Hodeidah for a second day in a bid to take control of Yemen’s main port in the biggest battle in the war that has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Residents and officials of the Yemeni army fighting the Houthis said the coalition also hit the main road linking Hodeidah to the capital Sanaa in the north to prevent any reinforcements from Iranian-backed Houthis who control the two cities.
Amina, 22, a university student living near the port, told Reuters by telephone: “People are worried and afraid of war. The sounds of the battleships are terrifying and the flight is flying all the time.”
“People are fleeing the city to the countryside, but those who do not have relatives and have no money can not escape.”
If the coalition takes control of Hodeidah, the only port in the hands of the Houthis, it will give it the upper hand in the three-year war. But it also threatens to cut off the lifeline of Yemenis, most of whom live in areas under Huthi.
The Red Sea port is the main gateway to Yemen’s main goods and commodities, where 22 million people need humanitarian aid and 8.4 million people are threatened with starvation, according to UN estimates, which could number 10 million by the end of the year.
Liz Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said that despite the fighting, “we are there and we are delivering aid. We will not leave Hodeidah. ”
Arab countries participating in the alliance said they would try to keep work at the port going on.
The Saudi-UAE-led coalition intervenes in the 2015 war in Yemen to restore the internationally recognized government to power and to counter what it sees as an Iranian attempt to gain influence.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging proxy wars in several countries, including Syria and Iraq. The Houthis deny that Tehran is moving them, saying they seized power in a popular revolt and that they are defending Yemen from the invasion.
– United Nations Meeting –
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting on Thursday, at the request of Britain, to discuss the attack. The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith, said the UN was talking to both sides to ease tension.
Western countries support Arab states diplomatically, but avoid direct public participation in the conflict. The United States, Britain and France sell billions of dollars of weapons annually to Arab countries.
Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi blamed the West for the attack.
He said the British told them a week ago that the Emiratis and the Saudis had assured them that they would not launch an attack on Hodeidah without their consent and assistance.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the British government was in regular contact with the coalition to ensure that its operations comply with international law on the protection of civilians.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the coalition’s “golden victory” was aimed at controlling the airport and the port, but coalition forces would avoid entering the city where the Houthis are deploying military vehicles and troops.
A military official said the 21,000-strong coalition, comprising both UAE and Sudanese forces as well as Yemenis of different factions, was clearing mines from the coastal strip south of Hodeidah and combing the countryside for Houthis.
The alliance says it will ease the flow of goods into Yemen once it controls the port by easing some import restrictions. But he warned that the Huthis had planted mines that could affect those efforts.
The coalition announced on Wednesday a five-point aid plan for the Yemeni city of Hodeidah and surrounding areas. The plan includes the construction of a sea bridge to Hodeidah from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the southern city of Jazan.