Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Yemeni - Darkest before the Dawn

Instead of bringing calm to the besieged Yemeni city, calls for a ceasefire in Hodeidah have brought some of the worst violence the vital port has yet faced.

In the past few days, more than 100 airstrikes have hit civilian neighbourhoods – five times as many as in the whole of the first week of October, according to Save the Children staff.

Pro-government militias are trying to seize as much ground as possible before fighting is supposed to stop at the end of November, when it is hoped UN-sponsored peace talks will restart in Sweden. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates coalition-backed troops are inching closer to the city’s Houthi rebel-held centre from their current stalemate positions in the southern suburbs and at the airport in a three-pronged attack.

Houthis have stepped up their operations, laying an estimated 1m landmines in anticipation of the coalition attack. On Tuesday, Houthi fighters raided the city’s May 22 hospital and set up sniper positions on the building’s roof. In the event of a full-scale attack, the rebels are expected to withdraw to the highlands surrounding the city, but have promised to deliver “hell on hell” to the coalition first. Yemen has largely avoided urban warfare to date. But the city’s 600,000 residents have long feared a gruelling street-by-street offensive to retake the city.

In the interim, though, the ferocious fighting in Hodeidah continues. Baseem al-Janani, who lives in the city, explained: “Many people here are too poor to escape, fuel is too expensive. We are stuck, always waiting, always afraid."

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