United Nations scrambles to avert coalition attack on key Yemen port

Frederick Owens
June 14, 2018

The strike coincides with the advance of coalition-backed Yemeni forces on the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, the main conduit for humanitarian supplies into a country teetering on the brink of starvation.

More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the war that also displaced over 3 million and pushed the impoverished country into the brink of starvation. As the last port controlled by the northern rebels, it is the lone source of humanitarian aid for millions across northern Yemen. The UN has been scrambling to try to negotiate a way to avoid the attack.

Despite a possible imminent attack, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Monday that was not stopping operations, and is aiming to help 6,000 people.

Hodeidah is a critical point for nearly 80 percent of aid entering Yemen, which is in a situation the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. United Nations staff operating out of the port ae already being withdrawn, anticipating the calamity to come.

"We are, at the present moment in intense consultation ..."

Oxfam said the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) sent aid groups in Yemen warnings on Saturday evening for staff to evacuate the port city by Tuesday.

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He accused the Houthis of seeking to destabilize Saudi Arabia and threaten regional and global security, stating that firing ballistic missiles at residential areas was a violation of worldwide Humanitarian Law.

United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock said an attack on Hodeida would be "catastrophic" and that aid agencies were hoping to "stay and deliver" in Yemen, which the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

A US -backed, Saudi-led military coalition is fighting against the Houthis on behalf of the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, who lives in exile in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the USA was following developments in Yemen very closely, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"I have spoken with Emirati leaders and made clear our desire to address their security concerns while preserving the free flow of humanitarian aid and life-saving commercial imports", Pompeo said.

Hodeidah handled 90 percent of the nation's foodstuffs and the humanitarian aid flow before the war, and periodic Saudi blockades of the port since 2015 have heightened fears of starvation and compounded aid agencies' response to a deadly cholera outbreak previous year.

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