The Arab states launch the biggest assault on the Yemen war with attack on the main port



ADEN (Reuters) – A Saudi-led alliance of Arab states launched the biggest badault on Yemen's war on Wednesday with an attack on the country's main port, with the aim of bringing the ruling Houthi movement to its knees. risk of worsening the situation. the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.

PHOTO OF THE ARCHIVE: A view of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen May 10, 2017. REUTERS / Abduljabbar Zeyad

Fighter jets and Arab warships bombarded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by troops foreign and Yemeni concentrated south of the port of Hodeidah in operation "Golden Victory".

The badault marks the first time Arab states have attempted to capture a city so heavily defended since they joined the war three years ago against the Houthis aligned with Iran, who control the capital Sanaa and most populated areas .

The United Nations fears that the badault could drastically worsen already desperate conditions in the poorest country in the region. The city and its surroundings are home to 600,000 people, and the port is the main food and aid route to reach the majority of Yemenis, 8.4 million of whom are on the brink of famine.

The Arab states expect a quick victory that will force the Houthis aligned with Iran to negotiate. They say they will try to keep the port operational and that they can alleviate the crisis by lifting import restrictions if they take advantage of it.

Western countries, particularly the United States and Great Britain, have diplomatically backed the Arab States and sold billions of dollars a year in arms, but most have avoided direct public participation in the conflict from Yemen.

A great battle could put that support to the test, especially if many civilians are killed or supplies are cut off.

The operation began after the expiration of a three-day deadline established by the United Arab Emirates, one of the leaders of the coalition, for the Houthis to leave the port.

"The liberation of the port is the beginning of the downfall of the Houthi militia and will ensure maritime navigation in the Strait of Bab al-Mandab and cut off the hands of Iran, which has drowned Yemen for a long time in weapons that throw precious Yemeni blood, "said the government in exile supported by the Arabs in a statement.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, who has threatened to attack oil tankers along the strategic sea route of the Red Sea, warned the alliance not to attack the port and said on Twitter that his forces had attacked a barge of the coalition. Al Huti Al Masirah TV said two missiles hit the barge. There was no immediate confirmation of the coalition.

The objective of the Arab States is to box the Houthis in Sana'a, cut off their supply lines and force them to the negotiating table.

Yemeni forces backed by the UAE, from southern separatists, local units of the Red Sea coastal plain and a battalion led by a nephew of the late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are fighting alongside Sudanese and Emirati troops .

EXACERBATE CATASTROPHE

The United Nations has been trying to get the parties to reach an agreement to prevent an attack. An badault "would aggravate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation," said Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Claire Feghali.

The alliance intervened in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was expelled from the capital Sanaa and exiled in 2014.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see the Houthi as the expansionism of their Shi & # 39; Ite enemy, Iran. The Houthis, from a Shiite minority who ruled a thousand-year-old kingdom in Yemen until 1962, deny that they are Iranian pawns. They say they seized power through a popular revolt against corruption and are now defending Yemen from an invasion of their Western-backed neighbors.

Yemen is located next to the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world, where tankers pbad from the Middle East through the Suez Cbad to Europe.

The United Arab Emirates has said that coalition forces plan to keep the port operational, but warned that the Houthis could sabotage the infrastructure and lay land and marine mines while retreating.

Additional reporting by Hesham Hajali in Cairo and Hadeel Sayegh in Dubai; Written by Ghaida Ghantous and Peter Graff; Edition by Jon Boyle

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