Battle rages in Yemen’s vital port
INS Monitoring desk
Houthi rebels place snipers on hospital roof,as 100 airstrikes hit civilian areas of Hodeidah
Instead of bringing calm to the besieged Yemeni city, calls for a ceasefire in Hodeidah have brought some of the worst violence the vital port has yet faced in the three-year war reports The Gaurdian.
In the past few days, more than 100 airstrikes have hit civilian neighbourhoods – five times as many as in the whole of the first week of October, according to Save the Children staff in Hodeidah.
Pro-government militias are trying to seize as much ground as possible before fighting is supposed to stop at the end of November, when it is hoped UN-sponsored peace talks will restart in Sweden. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates coalition-backed troops are inching closer to the city’s Houthi rebel-held centre from their current stalemate positions in the southern suburbs and at the airport in a three-pronged attack.
The Houthis, too, have stepped up operations, laying an estimated 1m landmines in anticipation of the coalition attack, codenamed Operation Golden Victory. On Tuesday, fighters raided the city’s May 22 hospital – named for Yemen’s national day – and set up sniper positions on the building’s roof according to sources..
“We don’t have enough hospitals anyway. The patients and staff are now terrified they will be an airstrike target,” said Baseem al janani ,a resident.
Hodeidah is Yemen’s lifeline. Before the war broke out in 2015, it handled most imports in a country where 90% of food had to be imported.
The port has been blockaded by the Saudi-led coalition for the past three years, a decision aid organisations say has been the main contributing factor to the that threaten to engulf half of Yemen’s 28 million population.
Since a fresh offensive on Hodeidah began in June, civilian deaths have risen by 164%, according to a report by thearmed conflict location and event data project (Acled), and at least 50,000 people have been displaced. Many who would flee are trapped by the fighting.
The coalition hopes retaking the city will clear a path to drive the Houthis out of the capital, Sana’a, and end the war. But a full-scale attack has been delayed several times, as the UN and aid agencies warn fighting that damages the port’s facilities could cause catastrophic suffering across the country.
“Most of the ingredients required are in place. The international community, including the US and UK, is now even more stridently behind pushing for talks to happen, recognises that this may need unpalatable concessions from both sides, and acknowledges that the conflict will not be solved militarily.”
In the interim, though, the ferocious fighting in Hodeidah continues. Janani said: “Many people here are too poor to escape, fuel is too expensive. We are stuck, always waiting, always afraid.”