06/14/2018, 10.50
YEMEN - UN

Saudi forces launch an offensive to snatch Hudaydah port from Houthis

The area is of strategic importance. It is the main entry point for humanitarian aid. Up to seven million people rely on external assistance to survive. An urgent meeting of the UN Security Council is scheduled today. Appeals for moderation and dialogue.

Sana'a (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi forces have launched a massive offensive on the strategically important Houthih-controlled Hudaydah port following the refusal of pro-Iranian Shia militias to withdraw from the area. According to some local media reports, the rebel positions have been the subject of intense bombardments from the sky and the sea.

The humanitarian agencies present in the area have raised the alarm for a possible "humanitarian catastrophe" in the event that the city is the target of an attack. The risk is it could create up to 250 thousand victims.

The Hudaydah port is the main entry point for humanitarian aid in Yemen.  Since January 2015, the Arab country has been the scene of a brutal conflict opposing the Sunni-led government of former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, supported by Riyadh, to Houthi Shia rebels, close to Iran and Hezbollah. In March of the same year, a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes against the rebels, which the United Nations slammed for causing civilian casualties, including children.

The apostolic vicar, Msgr Paul Hinder, has repeatedly spoken out against the ongoing disaster.  Christians too have become embroiled in the conflict as well, like in the attack against the Missionaries of Charity in Aden. In the pro-Saudi, government-controlled south, a new battle line has emerged with the arrival on the scene of pro-United Arab Emirate separatists, further complicating the situation. In a context of wars and divisions, Riyadh has also imposed a blockade last November in response to Houthi rocket attacks. In turn, this has exacerbated the food and emergency medicine.

Up to seven million people in the Arab country are counting on aid and humanitarian assistance to survive.

The Saudi TV Al-Arabiya confirms the start of operations for the "liberation" of the port. Heavy explosions and gunfire has been heard in the area. President Hadi said in a statement that "all the diplomatic channels" were possible to force the Houthi to surrender. A few hours earlier the Shiite rebels had received an ultimatum from the troops of the Emirates, according to which the time for negotiations has expired.

Meanwhile, in New York, an urgent UN Security Council meeting is scheduled to discuss the Saudi offensive. For the second time in a week the UN body responsible for maintaining peace and security is meeting to discuss Yemen at the request of Great Britain, behind closed doors around noon local time.

The UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths continues to keep the channel of negotiations open to safeguard port operations, urging the parties to moderation. He is pressing for the delivery of the area to a committee under UN supervision.

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