Published: Sun, June 17, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Saudi Arabia says missile shot by Yemen rebels intercepted

Saudi Arabia says missile shot by Yemen rebels intercepted

Yemeni commanders say pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition have reached a town at the entrance of the port city of Hodeida and are just "meters" from the global airport.

Hodeida is the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of starvation.

Yemen's government said Wednesday that negotiations had failed to force the Houthis from Hudaida, and that a grace period for UN-led peace efforts was over.

The air attacks targeting Houthi positions have been supported by ground operations by foreign and Yemeni troops south of the Red Sea port.

An official of the United Arab Emirates, part of the coalition, told Reuters on Thursday that France had agreed to provide minesweeping support for the operation and that UAE intelligence indicated that the Houthi rebels, who control the city, had mined the port. Alyemany said he has expressed this concern to United Nations envoy Griffiths and asked him to push the Houthis to respect global humanitarian law, which prohibits the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure.

The assault has sparked fears for the area's 600,000 residents, with aid and rights groups warning it could spell disaster across Yemen, a country already teetering on the brink of starvation.

Hodeida, home to almost 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, which is under Houthi control. Though the city's port still seems to be open, CARE said it can't confirm that goods are able to move into the country.

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"We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeida", Rankine-Galloway said.

Aid agency CARE International quoted its last staff member in Hodeidah as saying: "The situation is very scary, scarier than it has ever been before".

According to a Reuters report, one United States intelligence official said that the UAE request for military and intelligence support was dismissed.

Coalition jets also struck the main road linking Hodeidah to the capital Sanaa to block reinforcements to the Houthis.

"They did not encourage us, but did not discourage us", the official said.

On Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition launched a major operation to recapture the port of Al-Hudaydah - a vital supply line for humanitarian aid entering the war-torn country.

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"The UN Security Council should urgently warn senior officials on both sides they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid", Whitson said. The UAE has said the Houthis could plant land and sea mines at the port.

"We walked on foot with nothing but the clothes on our backs", she said of her and her extended family members, who walked some 10km.

A statement on the state-run WAM news agency Friday night said 10 UAE ships carrying 13,500 tons of food and aid, as well as three flights of aid, were planned for Hodeida.

Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to negotiate on keeping Hudaida open and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

The Houthis aligned with Iran launched a large military campaign and seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014, forcing Yemen's Hadi and his government to flee into the southern port city of Aden.

Saudi Arabia began bombing Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government in March 2015.

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