Battle of Al Hudaydah

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Battle of Al Hudaydah
Part of the Yemeni Civil War (2015–present), Al Hudaydah governorate offensive and Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
Taiz Front (2017-18).svg
Hadi Government advances in southwestern-Yemen      Hadi Government control      Houthi control      Southern Transitional Council control
Date 13 June 2018 – Present
(5 days)
Location Al Hudaydah, Yemen
14°48′08″N 42°57′04″E / 14.80222°N 42.95111°E / 14.80222; 42.95111
Status Ongoing
Territorial
changes
Belligerents

 Yemen (Hadi government)
 United Arab Emirates
 Saudi Arabia
Southern Resistance

Supported by:
 France
 United States
 NATO

 Yemen (Supreme Political Council)

Alleged support:
 Iran[1][2]
Commanders and leaders
Tareq Saleh Abdul-Malik al-Houthi
Units involved

 Yemen

Southern Resistance

 United Arab Emirates

 France

 United States

Houthis

Strength
25,000 troops
1,500–2,000 troops [11]
1,000 militants[11]
Casualties and losses

9 soldiers killed[12]
4 soldiers killed, 1 naval vessel damaged[13]

Over 90 coalition forces killed (Houthi claim)[14][15]
290 militants killed, 160 militants captured (Coalition claim)[16]
Battle of Al Hudaydah is located in Yemen
Battle of Al Hudaydah
Location within Yemen

The Battle of Al Hudaydah (Arabic: معركة الحديدة‎, Ma‘rakat al-Hudaydah) is a major Saudi-led coalition assault on the port city of Al Hudaydah in Yemen. Codenamed Operation Golden Victory and spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates, it has been described as the largest battle since the start of Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen in 2015.[12][17]

Beginning on 13 June 2018 and aiming to dislodge Houthi forces from the port, the objective of the assault is to recapture the city of Al Hudaydah and end the alleged[18] supply of weapons and ballistic missiles to the Houthis through Al Hudaydah port.[19][20] Several humanitarian agencies warned of catastrophic humanitarian consequences[21] such as UNICEF warning that the attack could threaten the lives of 300,000 children in the populated area and prevent food delivery to millions more.[22]

Background

Humanitarian situation

In 2015, the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen began, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe. Two-thirds of Yemen's 28 million people are dependent on aid to survive, and 8 million of those are food insecure.[23]

The port city of Al Hudaydah has played a crucial role in allowing food to be imported into the country. Almost 80 per cent of Yemen's imports, including much of its food, came in through Hodeidah even before the war broke out in 2015.[23] This role has been disrupted several times over the course of the war.

During the 2015 Yemeni Civil War, the Houthi-controlled city's port was bombed by the Saudi-led coalition on 18 August.[24] The port's four cranes were destroyed and several warehouses were also damaged. The coalition asserted that the port was housing a hostile naval base, but humanitarian aid organizations complained the coalition's naval blockade was preventing relief from reaching those in need.[24]

In early November 2017, in response to a Houthi missile landing in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities closed the port along with all other routes into Yemen. On 23 November 2017, the authorities allowed the port to reopen for aid deliveries, along with the Sana'a International Airport.[25]

Prior to the beginning of the battle, three-quarters of humanitarian and commercial cargo entering Yemen arrived via the port of Hudaydah.[26] Due to the risk of a humanitarian crisis if the port is besieged, the United Nations attempted to secure an agreement wherein it managed the port.[26] The Houthis have been cooperating with the international relief efforts to deliver aid to the Yemeni people.[10] A week before the start of the battle, the United Nations warned up to 250,000 of the city's 600,000 residents were in danger.[23]

UN attempt at political solution

Before the start of the war United Nations was struggling to find a diplomatic path to head off the assault but failed.[27] In a tweet on June 15, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said that "the role played by the former UN envoy did not exceed the profession of postman, and his initiative was rejected by the US-Saudi aggression in agreement with the mercenaries who refuse to accept the choice of a consensual person for the presidency.”[17] Muhammad Abdel Salam, the Ansar Allah Spokesman also stated: "Despite the UN envoy's visit to Sana'a more than once and meeting with Houthi officials for a comprehensive political solution, he has not done anything yet, which appears as a cover for the continuation of aggression."[28]

Prelude

In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said that at least 300,000 children currently live in and around the city, who have been suffering for so long already. "There are 11 million children in need of humanitarian aid and the attack will lead to choke off this lifeline and have devastating consequences", the statement said.[22]

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The United Arab Emirates initially stated that it would not attack the port without the support of the United States and the United Kingdom.[26] The United States Government initially expressed concerns about the risks of a battle, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis subsequently offered qualified support.[26]

According to Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, the Houthis were warned to evacuate the city within 48 hour and the deadline for Houthi forces to withdraw from Hudaydah expired on the morning of 13 June.[29] The Houthis say that they took power through a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion.[30]

Care International's acting country director, Jolien Veldwijk, warned from Sana'a of an even worse human catastrophe. "People are already exhausted, starving, and have no means to cope with any further escalation of war."[21] Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Committee, called on all international organizations to take a serious stance on the aggression and the unprecedented threat it poses to the vital port of Hudayda, reiterating its continued full cooperation with the international relief efforts to deliver aid to all the Yemeni people.[10]

French role

France agreed to use minesweepers to clear explosive and sea mines which were placed by the Houthis around Al Hudaydah Port in anticipation of the attack, hence paving a way for the assault.[31] France also sent special forces.[32]

Suspected United States role

According to Al Mayadeen, the forces of the Saudi and UAE operation depend on American support for weapons, gear, and coordinates via satellite, as well as refueling planes and the help of combat experts and retired US officers. In preparation for the war, US officers also supervised the training of 2,000 fighters in Eritrea who arrived at the coasts of Hudayda.[33]

Battle

The alliance enjoys superior weaponry, such as fighter planes, whereas the Houthis, who are more experienced in mountain warfare, have expanded their control across Yemen on sandal-shod feet and by pickup truck.[34]

13 June

According to Yemeni officials, approximately 2,000 Emirati troops assaulted Al Hudaydah, departing from a UAE naval base in Eritrea.[20][29] A worker for CARE reported hearing at least 30 airstrikes on the first day of fighting as the city population was caught in a panic.[21] On the first day of the battle, Emirati and coalition forces reportedly moved to capture Hodeida International Airport, approaching within a few miles.[29][20]

On the first day of fighting, Yemen's War Media outlet also said that the Yemeni army and fighters from Houthi-led Popular Committees inflicted heavy damage on the attackers in Hays district, destroying 10 personnel carriers and armoured vehicles[35] while 250 Houthi combatants were also reported killed.[36]

Almasirah and Houthi spokesman Loai al-Shami claimed that Houthi forces hit a coalition ship with two missiles, though this remains unconfirmed.[29][20] The Armed Forces of the UAE has reported that four Emirati soldiers died as of 13 June.[37]

In an official statement the Houthi-allied Yemeni Marine and Coastal Defense Command expressed its high readiness to counter the offensive on the port, warning of more attacks on the invading naval forces. It also added that there's no concern for civilian ships to reach for Hudayda so long as they stayed committed to international maritime law. It also stressed the Yemeni naval forces' national and religious responsibility in defending Yemen's sovereignty and territorial integrity.[9]

The Ansar Allah movement leader, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi stated that the United States was the leading player in the attack on Hudayda and that other parties were "tools." He added that Yemenis are fighting "the battle of liberation and resistance, and confront tyranny and arrogance on all fronts."[38]

14 June

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Yemeni government claimed on June 14 that they could breach the first line of defence by Houthis defending the city.[12] Medical sources reported that thirty Houthi militants were killed near Hodeida airport[39] along with another nine pro-Hadi soldiers.[12] According to Emirati Ambassador to the United Nations Obeid Salem Al Zaabi, coalition forces reached just 2 km from the city airport.[17]

15 June

Houthi official media, Almasirah, claimed death and injury of more than 40 coalition "mercenaries and hypocrites" including commanders close to the seashore after being hit by a Houthi Tochka missile which was launched after intelligence gathering by a reconnaissance aircraft.[40]

16 June

The coalition claimed it was close to capturing Hudayda airport from Houthi control amid clashes outside the airport.[41] The coalition reportedly seized the airport on 16 June and engineers were placed to remove landmines placed around the airport.[3]

Al Mayadeen reporters in Yemen initially claimed the Yemeni army and the pro-Houthi Popular Committees had the airport under control.[42] However, in a later report it claimed and that the coalition failed in their push for the airport and had to settle in the seashore.[43] Houthis media denied that the airport was under coalition control and claimed that the coalition forces in the seashore were surrounded from three sides blocking reinforcements from reaching them by land.[44]

Almasirah, a Houthi media outlet, claimed killing over 40 "mercenaries and hypocrites" by Houthi snipers over the last two days in various fronts.[45]

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, arrived in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa amid growing fears that the war will cut the only lifeline to the country population.[34]

Impact on the humanitarian situation

Reuters reported on June 16 that the battle led to the closure of the northern entrance of the western city Hodeidah, which leads to Sanaa, blocking a main exit out of the city and making it harder to transport goods from the country’s largest port to mountainous regions.[34]

International reaction

Yemen Supreme Political Council
  • Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi blamed the assault on Western inaction, saying that the British assured them a week earlier that no coalition troops would attack Hudayda "without their agreement and assistance."[17] Later he also accused the aggression with responsibility for the failure of any political process involving agreement over a consensual president instead of the ousted Hadi.[46] Houthi spokesman Abdul Salem also stated that aggression in the West Coast "lacks moral and social values, so the aggressors resort to media show off and psychological warfare."[28]
 Iran
 Russia
  • The Russian foreign ministry said an assault on the port would be a disaster for Yemen and would halt the peace process designed to end the three-year civil war.[12]
 United Kingdom
  • On 13 June 2018, the United Kingdom requested an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the battle.[48] More than forty members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to call for a ceasefire and to stop supplying weapons to coalition nations if necessary.[12] The session concluded with a rejection and opposition to call for a ceasefire and the immediate withdrawal of the Saudi led forces, but has instead urged sides to uphold international humanitarian law during the battle.[49]
 United States
  • Prior to the beginning of the fighting, members of the United States House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mattis, urging the United States Department of Defense to attempt to prevent or delay the assault.[26] The United States did not express opposition to the offense and has offered airstrike target assistance and qualified support, but noted increasing concerns regarding humanitarian consequences.[26]
 United Nations
  • UNICEF issued a warning that the attack could threaten the lives of 300,000 children in the populated area and prevent food delivery to as many as 250,000 of the 600,000 population of Al Hudaydah.[22] However, the United Nations Security Council rejected a call for a ceasefire and the immediate withdrawal of the Saudi led forces, but has instead urged sides to uphold international humanitarian law during the battle.[49]

References

  1. ^ "Humanitarian Crisis Worsens in Yemen After Attack on Port". Retrieved 2018-06-17. 
  2. ^ "Battle starts for lifeline Yemen port". BBC News. 2018-06-13. Retrieved 2018-06-17. 
  3. ^ a b "Saudi-led forces seize airport in Yemen city of Hodeidah". Associated Press. Retrieved 2018-06-16. 
  4. ^ "Tareq Saleh Leads 'Republican Guards' against Houthis on Yemen's West Coast". Asharq Al-awsat (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
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  6. ^ "المقاومة التهامية : دور محوري للقوات الإماراتية في تحرير الساحل الغربي" [Tihamah Resistance: The Emirati Forces have a pivotal role in the liberation of the West Coast]. al Khaleej. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  7. ^ "'Security Belt': The UAE's Tribal Counterterrorism Strategy in Yemen - Jamestown". 
  8. ^ http://www.newsweek.com/us-soldiers-secretly-fighting-saudi-arabias-war-yemen-report-says-910041
  9. ^ a b "القوات البحرية تؤكد جهوزيتها العالية وتتوعد أي بارجة تهدد السواحل اليمنية". www.almasirah.net (in Arabic). Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
  10. ^ a b c "رئيس الثورية العليا يحمّل العدوان عواقب المساس بميناء الحديدة ويدعو المنظمات الدولية لاتخاذ موقف جاد". www.almasirah.net (in Arabic). Retrieved 14 June 2018. 
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  28. ^ a b "ناطق أنصار الله: مالم يستطع العدو أخذه بالقوة لن يأخذه عن طريق المبعوث الأممي". Almasirah. 
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  40. ^ "صاروخ "توشكا" يضرب تجمعات الغزاة والمرتزقة في الساحل الغربي "محدّث"". www.almasirah.net (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-06-16. 
  41. ^ Ghobari, Mohammed. "Arab alliance close to capturing Hodeidah airport, Yemen military says". U.S. Retrieved 2018-06-16. 
  42. ^ "اليمن: ابتسام المتوكل: زرنا مطار #الحديدة وأؤكد أن الجيش اليمني واللجان الشعبية هي التي تسيطر عليه". شبكة الميادين (in Arabic). 2018-06-16. Retrieved 2018-06-16. 
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  47. ^ "Iran condemns UAE-led assault against key Yemeni port city". Press TV. June 14, 2018. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. 
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  49. ^ a b "UK opposes immediate ceasefire in Yemen port of Hodeidah at UN as coalition forces close in". Telegraph. June 15, 2018. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. 
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