Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Heavy clashes near Yemen's Hodeidah as UN seeks ceasefire

Heavy clashes near Yemen's Hodeidah as UN seeks ceasefire

On Tuesday, the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) reportedly intercepted a ballistic missile launched by Iran-backed Houthi movement from Yemen targeting the Saudi territory.

The spokesman of the Arab coalition Col Turki Al Malki stressed in a press conference on Monday the need to protect civilians and sustain the flow of aid.

Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Shia Houthi group overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

The UN pulled all of its global staff out of Al Hodeidah early on Monday morning.

The coalition has been battling the Iran-allied rebels since March 2015, in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Previous UN efforts have failed to end the war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had spoken with Emirati leaders and urged them to work with the United Nations but his statement fell short of warning the coalition against launching an all-out offensive. He is due to brief the U.N. Security Council later this month.

Last week, the Houthis claimed to have killed more than 70 Yemeni soldiers in an ambush in Al-Hudaydah province, but a Yemeni military commander said that only 19 soldiers had been killed.

The United Arab Emirates has given the UN less than 48 hours to try to negotiate a Houthi ceasefire at the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeidah before it mounts an attack on the port through which the bulk of food, medicine and gas to the rest of Yemen is distributed.

Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have been advancing along the western coast in recent weeks as they battle the rebels, known as Houthis.

After briefing the Security Council on Monday, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told reporters that "if for any period Hodeidah were not to operate effectively the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic".

On Friday, Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said that humanitarian agencies "fear, in a prolonged worst case, that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives".

He cited the possibility that the United States could potentially do more on humanitarian relief, if asked, but said "right now we have not been asked to do more than what we're already doing".

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