Saudi-Led Coalition Ignores UN, Launches Largest Assault In Yemen War

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states launched a massive assault on a major port city in Yemen Wednesday, despite United Nations warnings that the death toll could be “catastrophic.”

Coalition forces began their assault on the port of Hodeidah at dawn with naval and air strikes on the airport and the surrounding neighborhoods. The port is controlled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who started a civil war when they overthrew the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. Ninety percent of all of Yemen’s medicine, food, and fuel are imported, and more than 70 percent of those imports enter the country by way of the Red Sea port in Hodeidah, the U.N. reports, according to CNN.

Yemeni troops supported by the Saudi-led coalition are pushing forward with operation “Golden Victory” in hopes that this fight will end the stalemate and be “the beginning of a complete victory to liberate Yemen’s territory all the way to the capital of Sanaa,” the legitimate government of Yemen under the leadership of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi reportedly said in a statement.

The assault, the largest since the start of the civil war in Yemen, marks the first time that coalition forces have attempted to capture such a heavily-fortified position since the war began three years ago, Reuters reports.

The fight to retake the port of Hodeidah is “likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation,” Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali told Reuters, emphasizing a point also pushed by the U.N.

Not only does the U.N. estimate that an assault on the city could kill as many as 250,000 people, but the potential crippling of the port, a lifeline for the country, also poses other humanitarian problems, the BBC reports.

Millions of people “are completely reliant every month on food and other assistance from humanitarian organizations, so Hodeidah is absolutely central to the preserving of life,” U.N. Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock explained at a press conference Monday, “If for any period, Hodeidah were not to operate effectively, the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic.

Thousands of people have died since the civil war started, and the latest operation risks plunging the country into an escalated conflict characterized by more intense conflict and greater violence. As is, the crisis in Yemen is considered the “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

The exiled Yemeni government argues that it only decided to move forward with plans for the assault after “exhausting all peaceful and political means.” Coalition planes and warships began bombarding Houthi positions early Wednesday.

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