By Chase Lacy
Rabat – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is meeting for the second time this week for emergency talks regarding the Saudi-backed offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida.
On Wednesday, coalition forces Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen launched a massive ground and air offensive to wrestle Yemen’s third largest city from the control of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The offensive is seen as the largest battle of the past three years.
Heavy clashes have been reported near the Hudaida airport and al-Durayhmi, a rural area south of the city. For days, the Houthis have been alerting residents on the outskirts to flee to the city center.
The Yemeni government said that UN negotiations have failed, and the peace effort has concluded. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said he is continuing to negotiate to keep Hudaida open and urged all combatants to exercise restraint.
Hudaida is the lifeline of Yemen, providing 70 percent of its imports, such as food and supplies, especially,important since Yemen is on the brink of famine. Saudi Arabia and the UAE claim the port city is used to smuggle weapons for Houthis.
As many as 600,000 people live in or around Hudaida, of which the UN claims “as many as 250,000 people may lose everything – even their lives.”
A total of 22.2 million people,75 percent of Yemen’s population, is in need of humanitarian assistance. Of those, 17.8 million are food insecure, and 8.4 million are considered at risk of starvation. Around 400,000 children under the age of five years old suffer from acute malnutrition.
Only half of Yemen’s medical facilities are fully functioning, leaving 16.4 million without access to basic healthcare. Yemen’s medical crisis has been exacerbated by a massive cholera outbreak that has affected a suspected one million people and killed 2,248 since April 2017.
Houthi rebels took control of the majority of Yemen’s populated areas, including the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and early 2015. In 2015 Saudi, Emirati, and Yemeni forces, with Western logistical support, launched strikes and offensives to drive out the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Yemen is strategically important to control. Yemen’s location places it at the Bab al-Mandab strait, the waterway that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. A large percentage of the world’s oil shipments pass through the strait.