SUN 24 - 3 - 2019
Nov 6, 2018
The Daily Star
Aid groups say civilians trapped by Hudaida fighting
ADEN, Yemen/DUBAI: Thousands of Yemeni civilians are trapped on the southern outskirts of Hudaida as forces backed by the Arab coalition battle Houthi insurgents entrenched in the Red Sea port city, aid groups said Monday.
The alliance has massed thousands of Yemeni troops in recent days near the heavily defended port, but a source in the coalition told Reuters there are no immediate plans for an assault on the city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
A source in the coalition told AFP the clashes were not “offensive operations,” adding that the alliance was “committed to keeping the Hudaida port open.”
But three officials with the Yemeni military said fighting continued to flare around Hudaida, whose port is the entry point for three-quarters of the country’s imports.
Yemeni military officials said the coalition had sent fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters Monday morning to back up troops on the ground around Hudaida. The fighting has reached populated areas around a university that lies 4 kilometers from the port and has neared the city’s main hospital for the first time, aid groups and residents said.
“All the people living between the airport and the university are trapped, the last four days have been very tough, it is beyond catastrophic levels,” said Isaac Ooko, Hudaida’s area manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council.“Airstrikes have been very intense and the hovering of the jets causes permanent anxiety ... Hudaida has become a ghost city, people stay indoors and the streets are deserted,” he told Reuters by telephone.
A UNICEF spokeswoman who was recently in Hudaida voiced concern that clashes were getting close to Al-Thawra hospital, the main medical facility on Yemen’s western coast that treats thousands of people, including for cholera and diphtheria.
Medics at two hospitals in Hudaida province, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have counted the bodies of 74 Houthi rebels since Sunday and that dozens were wounded.
Sources at a military hospital in government-held Mokha, south of Hudaida, said 15 coalition-backed troops were killed over the same period.
The latest clashes came as Western countries called for a cease-fire to support peace efforts to end a war that has lasted more than three years and killed more than 10,000 people.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have not publicly commented on those calls, but the coalition source said the military deployment aimed to put pressure on the Houthis to return to negotiations.
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