Groups warn of civilian toll, violations in Yemens Hodeida

Groups warn of civilian toll, violations in Yemen\s Hodeida

Trump administration could name Yemens Houthi rebels a terrorist group

Houthi rebels incur higher death toll with 47 fighters killed as the battle for the strategic port city rages on.

Dozens of combatants were killed as pro-government forces closed in on rebel forces in the heart of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah on Thursday, hospital sources said.

1 / 5Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, as they continue to battle for control of the city from Huthi rebels on November 8, 2018Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, as they continue to battle for control of the city from Huthi rebels on November 8, 2018 (AFP Photo/Khaled Ziad)Hodeida (Yemen) (AFP) – Yemeni pro-government forces backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes advanced inside rebel-held Hodeida Thursday, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians bracing for fighting in the streets of the Red Sea port city.

Medics at hospitals inside the city reported 47 rebels had been killed in overnight ground fighting and air raids by a Saudi-UAE coalition supporting the government.

Flashing victory signs, troops of the United Arab Emirates-trained Giants Brigade armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades rolled down the citys streets in pickup trucks bearing their brigade logo spray-painted in red, a journalist working for AFP reported.

Sources at hospitals in government-held areas on the outskirts said 11 soldiers had also been killed.

Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah risks escalating the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where about half the population – some 14 million people – could soon be on the verge of famine.

The Huthis have controlled Hodeida since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and then swept though much of the rest of the country, triggering Saudi-led military intervention the following year and a devastating war of attrition.

The Red Sea port city is the entry point for some 70 percent of the countrys commercial imports and a vast portion of the UN-supervised humanitarian aid.

After a week of intense battles with the Iran-backed Huthi insurgents on the outskirts of Hodeida, loyalist troops reached residential neighbourhoods, using bulldozers to remove concrete road blocks installed by the rebels.

Investigating Houthi Claims of Drone Attacks on UAE Airports – bellingcat

Separately, rights group Amnesty  International warned against Houthi rebels taking up positions on a hospital rooftop in Hodeidah. The rights monitor fears that the rebels, accused of ties to Iran, might try to use health facilities and patients as human shields to ward off coalition air attacks.

As many as 400,000 Yemeni children are suffering from what UNICEF calls“severe acute malnutrition” right now. The situation is likely to become even worse as a major port in Hodeidah province, through which humanitarian supplies, fuel and commercial goods are delivered, is destroyed, damaged or blockaded by Saudi Arabia or its allies.

Video: Yemeni pro-government forces advance towards Hodeida

Amnestys Samah Hadid says the Houthi presence on the hospital rooftop “violates international humanitarian law, but this violation does not make the hospital and the patients and medical staff lawful targets” for the coalition.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in 2015 after Houthi rebels dislodged the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Yemen is now home to the worlds worst humanitarian crisis, which has killed at least 10,000 people since 2015, according to the UN.

The Saudi message may indeed be questioned by anyone following updates on the humanitarian crisis raging across Yemen. Famine had in fact become the face of that war, and aid agencies say children are among the most affected by the lack of food and healthcare.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, an independent watchdog, recently said around 56,000 Yemenis had been killed in the violence.

To support their claim, the post, bearing the We Stand with Yemen hashtag, features smiling faces of children along with emblems of Saudi government agencies, such as Communication and Media Center and the Foreign Ministry itself.

UNICEF warned on Tuesday that the battle for Hodeidah placed the “lives of 59 children, including 25 in the intensive care unit, at imminent risk of death”.

According to the Saudi-led coalitions spokesman, Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, an unidentified body was flying towards Abha International Airport at 7:40 a.m. Saudi local time. The object was destroyed by air defence systems, the remnants alleged to be those of a Houthi drone. On the same day in Jizan, the Saudi defence claimed to have destroyed another Houthi drone. According to Al-Maliki, the drone was identical to the remnants of the one downed at Abha International Airport. The incidents show that, at the very least, the Houthis do possess enough drone capability to enter Saudi Arabia.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday appealed for warring parties to “spare civilians and civilian infrastructure” including ambulances, hospitals, electricity and water plants.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Hadi appointed Mohammed al-Maqdishi as new defence minister and Abdullah Al-Nakhi as new army chief of staff, according to the official SABA news agency.

Maqdishis predecessor, Mahmoud al-Subaihi, has been held by the Houthis since 2014 when the latter seized control of the capital Sanaa.

The Houthi groups stated asymmetric strategy is to disrupt the Saudi- led coalitions economy versus large scale attacks in comparison to other non-state armed groups in Yemen. It could be reasonable to assume that Houthi drones are thus used for DBIED attacks, which wealthy Gulf states would be reluctant to admit intruded upon their airspace —  especially when it comes to threats to international airport terminals — hence making it difficult to access available open source evidence for interrogation and verification.

Aid groups warned of the plight of civilians in Yemen's contested Hudaida where casualties are mounting as the Saudi-led coalition are fighting to take the port city from the country's Shia rebels.

A growing risk to the Saud-led coalitions aviation and hydrocarbon industry exists, as seen with Houthi ballistic missile attacks in Saudi Arabia. This includes international companies operating in coalition countries and using maritime lanes in the Red Seas Bab Al Mandeb water straight. Despite there being an investigative question over Houthi drone use beyond Yemens borders and into the UAE, Houthi ballistic missiles have already caused casualties – killing three civilians in Saudi Arabia in June 2018.

Yemen war: Battle for vital port of Hudaydah intensifies

Amnesty International warned late Wednesday that rebels have taken up positions on a Hudaida hospital rooftop, raising concerns they are using the hospital's patients as human shields to ward off coalition airstrikes. 

Saudi-led coalition troops take key Hodeida neighbourhood

Doctors Without Borders, meanwhile, said it was treating two dozen wounded from the latest offensive.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded an “immediate” halt to the fighting, warning that the country stands on a “precipice” and could face the worlds “worst famine” for decades if violence continues unabated.

The push against the Iran-backed rebels also known as Houthis who are holding Hudaida began anew this month, shortly after the United States called for a ceasefire by the end of the month.

Nearly 200 fighters have been killed in the fierce battle on the outskirts of rebel-held Hodeidah since last week, including at least 27 Houthi rebels and 12 pro-government fighters in the past 24 hours.

Apparently in a rush to try to take Hudaida before then, coalition artillery, helicopter gunships and airstrikes have pounded the rebels since then, with dozens killed on both sides. 

Ceasefires in Yemen's civil war have rarely held, and peace talks have repeatedly broken down in the past.

Amnesty urged the warring sides to protect civilians. It said that the coalition, which relies heavily on air power, has killed scores of civilians in recent airstrikes, and rebels are responding with mortars in residential neighborhoods that cause indiscriminate casualties.

"The presence of Houthi fighters on the hospital's roof violates international humanitarian law," said Amnesty's Samah Hadid, adding that "this violation does not make the hospital and the patients and medical staff lawful targets" for the coalition.

Hadid said the hospital was full of wounded "civilians who have nowhere else to go for lifesaving medical care. Anyone attacking a hospital under these conditions risks responsibility for war crimes."

The success of congressional Democrats, who took back control of the House of Representatives in yesterdays midterm elections, poses new challenges for the White House. It will no longer have a Republican-dominated Congress to work with throughout the second half of President Donald Trumps term. Although Democratic lawmakers will have limited means to change the administrations foreign policy in the Middle East, especially with the Senate remaining in GOP hands, congressional pressure may impact Trumps handling of the Yemen war, where Washington has backed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)s campaign against Houthi rebels since March 2015.

The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis who toppled the internationally recognised government. 

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels since 2015, in an attempt to restore that government to power.

From the standpoint of many Democrats, Trumps foreign policy has become too transactional. As Trumps congressional opponents speak out about the presidents close ties with Saudi Arabias leadership amid the Khashoggi cases fallout, the Washington-Riyadh relationship has become more of a domestic issue in the United States. In stark contrast to 2016, the issue of Yemen and Washingtons (partial) responsibility for the humanitarian disaster became an electoral talking point this year for Democratic candidates.

In recent days, fighting intensified with troops trained by the United Arab Emirates, a coalition member, advanced in eastern Hodeida, pushing toward the city's port and key Red Sea facilities, some 5 kilometres away.

The rebels have controlled Hodeida since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and then swept though much of the rest of the country, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention the following year and a devastating war of attrition.

Doctors Without Borders reported an influx of wounded civilians in recent days, with 24 wounded, including women and children from Hudaida, with mostly blast and gunshot injuries.

UAE-trained Giants assault force secures key road into Hodeidah

The aid group said civilians were reported leaving Hudaida over the weekend but that it was difficult to assess how many remained trapped inside.

Yemen decries Saudi strikes on Hudyadah civilian targets

The killing of Jamal Khashoggi may have triggered a ceasefire in Yemen, and possibly peace in the war-torn country, according to the president of the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

David Miliband, who is a former British foreign secretary and member of parliament, said while the journalist's death was tragic, international focus on Khashoggi's murder should be switched to actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where millions of lives are affected.

Government forces backed by significant numbers of UAE ground troops launched an offensive to retake the city in June. 

"Maybe the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi thugs has created a new mantra: one death can be the spark that forestalls the suffering of millions," Miliband said in an opinion piece on CNN.

Miliband was referring to US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's call on all participants in the Yemen civil war to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days," last month.

"The suffering in Yemen has gone unacknowledged for far too long – and has emboldened those willing to act with impunity," Miliband said. "Jamal Khashoggi's legacy should be accountability not just for the suffering of one, but of millions."

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