Some 300,000 children risk death, injury and starvation as they are trapped in Yemen's main port city which is under assault from Saudi-led Arab states, aid groups said on Wednesday.
The biggest battle in a three-year war, which has already created the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, centres on Hodeidah, the main route for food and aid to reach most Yemenis, 8.4 million of whom are on the verge of famine.
Jolien Veldwijk, acting country director for the charity CARE International called the attack "catastrophic, hopeless and devastating", worsening hunger as food will become harder to find and more expensive.
Thousands of children at risk in Yemen’s Hudayda: NGO
At least 300,000 children are stuck in the Yemeni city of Al-Hudayda amid a major military offensive by Saudi-led coalition forces to recapture the strategic port city from Houthi rebels, Save the Children warned Wednesday.“An estimated 300,000 children stuck in Hodeidah city are at risk of being killed or maimed by the fighting,” Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director of Save the Children, said in a statement, using his way of writing the name of the city.“Families and children could be caught in the crossfire, unable to leave but in grave danger from bombs and bullets if they stay, trapped beyond the reach of humanitarian aid or medical care,” he said.On Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition forces launched a major military operation to recapture Al-Hudaydah from Shia Houthi rebels.Al-Hudaydah port is a vital supply line through which as much as 80 percent of humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Yemen goes through.The London-based NGO voiced concern that the strategic Yemeni port will be closed over the fighting.“A famine is becoming a real possibility, with hundreds of thousands of lives at risk,” it warned. “The battle for Hodeidah will almost certainly result in a huge loss of civilian life and damage to vital infrastructure.”The organization renewed calls for finding a diplomatic solution rather than military solution to the four-year conflict in Yemen.“We feel despair for the children of Hodeidah who didn’t ask for this war. Time and again, the world has failed the children of Yemen, despite international efforts discouraging the warring parties from escalating a military confrontation.”Saudi-led coalition attacks Yemen's key port of HodeidahUN, Red Cross call for protecting civilians after coalition attack on Yemen portIt called on warring rivals in Yemen to “respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and take all feasible precautions to protect children and their families.”Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Shia Houthis overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies -- who accuse the Houthis of serving as Iranian proxies -- launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.
"If the port closed, even for a day, then the number of people at risk of famine will increase because no food will come into the country," she said by phone from the capital Sanaa.
"Kids are most vulnerable so they will die first ... Parents will have to make a decision of either feeding their children or treating them."
The assault marks the first time the Arab states have tried to capture such a heavily-defended major city since they joined the war against the Iran-aligned ruling Houthis, who control Sanaa and most of the populated areas.
UN's Grandi calls for Yemen talks, fears refugee exodus
Escalating violence in Yemen could lead to a refugee exodus and will not end a war that has taken a huge toll on civilians, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi said on Wednesday, as a Saudi-led coalition launched the largest assault of the war."It’s actually suprising that an exodus has not happened yet," he told Reuters. "The message is go back to the negotiating table as soon as possible." Saudi-led coalition attacks Yemen's key port of HodeidahUN, Red Cross call for protecting civilians after coalition attack on Yemen port
People fled the Red Sea port city on Wednesday as the Houthis deployed military vehicles and troops in the city centre and near the port, while Arab warplanes flew overhead.
"With this assault, (children) are now suffering more hunger and death," Anas Shahari, a spokesman for Save the Children, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Sanaa. Shahari said he feared that the condition of some 300,000 children would worsen with less access to food, water and medicine, describing an already dire situation when he visited Hodeidah three months ago.
"I could see children who are hungry, children who are on the streets with their ribs sticking out, babies unable to cry because they are so malnourished," he said. "That was the situation before, and now it is going to get worse."
The United Nations estimates that 600,000 people live in the area, and in a worst-case scenario, a battle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cutting off aid and other supplies to millions of people.
Saudi-led coalition attacks Yemen's key port of Hodeidah
A Saudi-led coalition launched an assault on Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday in the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran-aligned Houthis.Coalition warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the country's largest port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said.The "Golden Victory" operation began after the passing of a deadline set by the United Arab Emirates for the Houthis, who hold the capital Sanaa and the main populated areas of Yemen, to quit the sole port under their control.The Red Sea port is a lifeline for Yemenis, handling 80 percent of essential goods to the impoverished country, which the United Nations says is grappling with the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.UN, Red Cross call for protecting civilians after coalition attack on Yemen portHouthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, who has threatened attacks on oil tankers along the strategic Red Sea shipping lane, warned the Western-backed alliance not to attack the port and said on Twitter his forces had targeted a coalition barge.Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said two missiles struck the barge, but there was no immediate confirmation from the coalition.The United Nations had been trying to get the parties to reach a deal that would avert an attack on Hodeidah, which it fears would further impede Yemenis' access to food, fuel and medicine for millions of Yemenis facing disease, including a cholera epidemic.It estimates that 600,000 people live in the area, and in a worst-case scenario, a battle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cutting off aid and other supplies to millions of people.ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said that the assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen", where water and electricity networks are vital to the civilian population's survival.The assault is the first time since the Western-backed coalition of mostly Gulf states joined the war in 2015 that they have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city. The aim is to box in the Houthis in Sanaa, cut their supply lines and force them to the negotiating table.UAE-backed Yemeni forces - drawn from southern separatists, local units from the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh - are fighting alongside Emirati and Sudanese troops.TURNING POINTThe alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and thwart what Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as the expansionist aims of their Shi'ite foe, Iran."The liberation of the port is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia and will secure marine shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait and cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood," the exiled government said in a statement carried by state-run Yemeni media.The Houthis deny they are Iranian pawns and say their revolt aims to target corruption and defend Yemen from invaders.Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers, which pass near Yemen’s shores while heading from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.The UAE has said coalition forces plan to keep the port operational but warned that the Houthis could sabotage infrastructure and place land and sea mines as they withdraw.Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for international cooperation, has said if the port is wrested from the Houthis, the coalition could ease controls, aimed at denying the group arms, and so improve the flow of goods and aid into Yemen.Riyadh says the Houthis use the port to smuggle in Iranian-made weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. The accusations are denied by the group and Iran.
UN, Red Cross call for protecting civilians after coalition attack on Yemen port
The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday for all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians after the Saudi-led coalition launched an air and ground assault on the vital Red Sea port city of Hodeidah."Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive," Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters by email.In Geneva, ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali said that the assault was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen", where water and electricity networks are vital to the civilian population's survival. Saudi-led alliance gears up for battle in key Yemeni port cityUS urges all parties in Yemen to work with UN as fighting flares