Families get food in Yemen's Hodeidah during lull in fighting

Frederick Owens
November 15, 2018

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday against the "catastrophic" consequences of a possible destruction of the port of Hodeida.

Hodeida port came under attack late Monday for the first time since June, when government troops supported by a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to take back the city from the Iran-backed Huthis.

The Hodeida campaign has sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis in war-hit, impoverished Yemen, where 14 million people face mass starvation.

The Saudi-led alliance this month stepped up an offensive to take Hodeida, controlled by the Huthis since 2014.

Since November 1, when clashes erupted as the Saudi-led coalition attempts to retake the strategic port from the Houthi rebels, almost 600 people have been killed, ending a temporary suspension of the offensive by the government and the coalition supporting it led by Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to AFP earlier, a military official said pro-government forces had temporarily stopped their advance into the port to allow safe passage for civilians, humanitarian staff and wounded.

The Saudi-led coalition has also come global pressure to end the conflict following the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last Friday that Washington would support the Saudi decision to use the Saudi-led coalition's own capabilities to conduct inflight refueling missions in Yemen, indicating that the U.S. side would stop refueling the coalition aircraft.

Residents reported Tuesday that the fighting had slowed overnight, and rebel media - which regularly claims attacks on loyalists - did not report any new fighting. "We heard a few gunshots here and there at night, but it seems to be calm this morning", a resident told AFP by telephone, requesting anonymity. The city is home to Yemen's most valuable port, crucial for food imports and aid delivery.

The lull coincided with a visit by British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt to Saudi Arabia, to press for an end to the almost four-year war which has killed more than 10,000 people.

United Nations mediator Martin Griffiths - whose efforts to host negotiations in Geneva in September failed - met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani in Riyadh on Monday for talks on reviving the peace process, Saudi Arabia s state news agency reported.

Mutawakel said Saudi Arabia's refusal to let exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government maintain a presence on the ground, the blockade of air and sea ports of entry and the collapse of Yemen's currency after the closure of the country's central bank had also driven the starvation.

The coalition abandoned a previous offensive on Hodeidah last June without any gains amid worldwide concern over a humanitarian catastrophe to give peace talks a chance.

Both the United States and Britain are major suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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