Thousands of civilians are fleeing Hodeidah, Yemen, after hundreds were killed in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign to take control of the strategic Yemeni port away from Houthi rebels. The death toll and the disruption of vital supply lines has alarmed the United Nations, which has consistently declared and re-emphasized the brutal assault on Yemen as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, with millions of people living on the very brink of famine.
Over 4,000 families have fled the city since June 1, according to the latest report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that describes people losing not just their homes but their entire livelihoods after their farms were destroyed by coalition airstrikes.
“The air attacks were extremely heavy and violent back there, hitting humans, trees and houses – everything,” one of the displaced Yemenis told RT’s Ruptly video agency.
“A lot of people died – children and seniors” in the shelling of Hodeidah by the Saudi-led forces, another civilian added.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the number of casualties from the first three days of the operation stood at more than 280 people. But the death toll is feared to have grown as the Saudi-led gulf coalition, which is seeking to forcefully reinstall the ousted former regime, continued to bomb Hodeidah on Saturday and Sunday, despite initial pledges to limit their bombing to the airport area, in what they call a “military and humanitarian operation” to “liberate the port of Hodeidah in western Yemen”.
On Saturday, the coalition announced that its backing has allowed the forces loyal to ousted former Yemeni President Mansour Hadi to gain control of the airport outside Hodeidah.
“The military operations to liberate the city of Hodeida will not be stopped until we secure the city and its strategic port and that won’t last too long,” Sadek Dawad, the spokesman for the Republic Guards, told AP.
The Houthi rebels have denied the claims of the Saudi-led coalition, with Ahmed Taresh, who is in charge of Hodeida Airport, telling SABA news agency that the facility has been completely destroyed by the airstrikes, but has not been surrendered to the enemy.
Ruptly footage from the outskirts of Hodeidah had shown plumes of black smoke coming from the airport, with sounds of explosion and intense fighting in the background.
The attempt by Sweden to pass a motion in the UN Security Council (UNSC) to end the fighting at Hodeidah was rejected on Friday, with both the US and UK vetoing it. Both permanent UNSC members support the Saudi-led coalition and have faced harsh criticism for their key roles in furnishing the sales of billions of dollars in weapons and munitions to the Saudis that are currently destroying the lives of Yemeni civilians.
The Red Sea port of Hodeidah is of vital importance; it’s the main distribution point for humanitarian and commercial supplies arriving to be imported into Yemen, which is going through a massive humanitarian crisis. Riyadh and its allies have repeatedly tried to blockade the ports, which has only further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Riyadh and the coalition have claimed that it was being used by Iran to smuggle arms to the Houthi rebels.
Prior to the start of the coalition’s siege on Wednesday, the UN said that an attack on the densely populated port city may cost up to 250,000 civilian lives. It also warned that the operation could leave millions of Yemenis without the “food and basic supplies needed to prevent famine and a recurrence of a cholera epidemic.”
On Sunday, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in an attempt to broker a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The talks have been at “an advanced stage” for the United Nations to take over the administration of the port of Hodeidah, Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator, said. Griffiths is expected to report to the UN Security Council on the results of the negotiations on Monday.
The Arab coalition has been waging a brutal military campaign in Yemen since March 2015, in an attempt to restore president Hadi to power. Three years of Saudi-led bombardment and a blockade of Yemen has led to a catastrophic situation in the country, with 22 million people, or 80 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian aid, while more than half of the country is left without basic medical services.
More than 5,500 people have been killed and over 9,000 injured as of the end of 2017, according to the UN, with Riyadh and its allies accused of indiscriminate bombings of civilian infrastructure in the country.
* This article was automatically syndicated and expanded from RT International.