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Yemen government announces 'vast offensive' on key aid port

Yemen's port city has come under a new government assault [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 November, 2018

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Hodeida has come under a ferocious new assault from government forces, after the government announced the launch of a 'vast offensive' on the Yemeni port.

Yemen's government announced on Friday the launch a "vast offensive" on the key port city of Hodeida, an assault that threatens to plunge the country into famine.

"A military operation has begun and the national army forces have advanced towards the north and the western sides of the city of Hodeida, progressing on all fronts with the support of the Arab coalition," the internationally-recognised government, which is fighting the Houthi rebels, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

"Fierce battles are taking place at these moments."

Hodeida is a key access point for aid to the country, and an offensive on the port city, where around 80 percent of the country's food and aid supplies enter from.

The consequences of fighting halting to humanitarian aid could be disastrous for Yemen, with tens thousands at risk of dying from starvation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that half a million Yemenis had fled fighting in Hodeida, but thousands more remain trapped in the city.

The Houthi rebel group, who control the city and capital Sanaa, have vowed not to surrender Hodeida to the government force.

UN agencies say some 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen, which they have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said Thursday it will nearly double food aid to Yemen to reach 14 million people a month - almost half the population - "to avert mass starvation"..

Aid is already being supplied to between 7 and 8 million people every day, the group said on Thursday, "but the situation has now got so dire that WFP is preparing to scale up", spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in Geneva.

"Indications are that even greater efforts will be needed to avert mass starvation," Verhoosel added.

"Unless it does, this will become a country of living ghosts, its people reduced to sacks of bones."

Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.

Houthi fighters positioned themselves in a hospital earlier this week, but had withdrawn from the building by Friday.

Saudi and UAE-backed government forces have slowly advanced into the eastern section of the city, despite calls from the US, UK and others for a ceasefire to minimise harm to civilians.


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