Saudi-UAE led forces ‘capture’ Yemen’s Hudaida airport
Yemeni military announce capture of airport from Houthi rebels, as UN special adviser warns of risk of famine.
June 16, 2018
Courtesy: Al Jazeera
Forces from a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition have captured the airport in Yemen’s port city of Hudaida, military officials announced on Twitter.
In a post on Saturday, an account associated with the Saudi-aligned Yemeni military said the airport had been “freed from the grip of the Houthi militia” and that de-mining operations were ongoing.
Hudaida airport is located just to the south of the city-proper with heavy fighting still ongoing on Hudaida’s southern edges.
Houthi sources have not yet confirmed their loss of the airport.
Heavy fighting has left at least 39 people dead as of Thursday, including 30 Houthi rebels and nine pro-government troops.
Rebels have instructed civilians to move away from the outskirts of the city and towards the city centre.
Saudi and Emirati-backed forces began an offensive to capture Hudaida on Wednesday. Houthi forces captured the city of about 600,000 people in late 2014.
The Yemeni government backed by Saudi and the UAE has accused the Houthi rebels of using Hudaida’s port to smuggle weapons from Iran into the country.
Lifeline for aid
The port, which is still under the rebels’ control, is responsible for 70 percent of imports into Yemen, raising fears the fighting could ignite a humanitarian catastrophe.
The UN Security Council has expressed its “deep concern” over the fighting and UN officials have warned of a risk of famine.
Adana Dieng, UN special adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said the attack on Hudaida could heighten the risk of famine.
“The Yemeni port (of Hudaida) is a lifeline for the delivery of aid and the Coalition’s air attacks can kill many more people over time through famine and hunger when damaging such civilian infrastructure,” Dieng said in a statement.
The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Office Coordinator in Hudaida, Saleem Al -Shamiri told Al Jazeera from Yemen’s capital Sanaa that most of the city’s residents are unable to leave the city.
“They cannot afford to leave the city. They don’t have resources, they don’t have money to leave the city. We must protect them,” he said.
He added Hudaida’s residents are in need of food assistance and clean water.
More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the UN, which considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.