Yemeni president calls for a military solution in Hodeidah

Thursday, 14 Jun, 2018

"The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas", the exiled government said in a statement carried by state-run Yemeni media.

With anti-government forces embedded in the city, military victory in Hodeida "seems a very tall order" and an assault on the city would only lead to further bloodshed, he warned.

"I think the Emiratis have done a good job in presenting compelling arguments about why an operation (on Hodeidah) could in the end tip the balance and apply enough pressure to bring the Houthis to the table", a Western diplomat said on Monday.

Both the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians following the latest air and ground assault. They also reported coalition airstrikes and shelling by naval ships. "The last thing we want is to prolong the war in Yemen".

A soldier walks at Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen May 10, 2017.

The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their worldwide staff from Hodeida ahead of the rumoured assault.

The UN says some 600,000 people live in and around Hodeida, and "as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives" in the assault.

Yemeni forces massing around Al Hudaydah are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Some 8.4 million people in Yemen face pre-famine conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.

The U.N. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday for all sides in Yemen's war to protect civilians. However, Griffiths' recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis.

Washington had also cautioned against the assault. Already, Yemeni security officials said some were fleeing the fighting.

It wasn't immediately clear what specific American support the coalition was receiving Wednesday.

Coalition warplanes and warships are carrying out strikes on Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by Yemeni troops massed south of the Red Sea port, the internationally recognised Yemeni government in exile said in a statement issued by its media office.

Its leader, exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, said his government had proposed compromises but would not let the Houthis hold the Yemeni people "hostage to a prolonged war which the Houthis ignited".

The Houthis, from a Shi'ite minority that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, say they took power through a popular revolt and are now defending Yemen from invasion.

Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the Coalition forces fighting to restore legitimacy in Yemen, said that the Air Defense Forces of the Coalition spotted at around 3.46 a.m. the launch of a ballistic missile by the Iran-backed Houthi militias from the Saada Province of Yemen towards the Saudi territories. The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran - an accusation Tehran denied - but the closure of Hudaydah for several weeks resulted in sharp increases in prices of basic commodities, accelerating food insecurity.

Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, UAE minister of state for International Cooperation, said on Wednesday that the coalition had prepared a large-scale and comprehensive plan for the rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to Hodeidah and surrounding areas.

The offensive, which was announced by Yemen's government, is aimed at dislodging an Iranian-allied rebel group known as the Houthis that controls Hodeida on Yemen's Red Sea coast.