Arab aid plan to bring much-needed relief to Yemen’s Hodeidah
LONDON - The liberation of Hodeidah International Airport appeared to open the way for the delivery of much-needed relief for civilians in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah and surrounding areas. After seizing control of the airport, forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said engineers were clearing mines from south of the city of some 600,000 people on the Red Sea.
The Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) sent a convoy carrying 10,000 food baskets and other supplies to areas of Hodeidah province that were liberated from the Houthi rebels. The humanitarian aid would help 70,000 civilians in Hodeidah, the Emirati news agency WAM reported.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they will establish a continuous shipping lane from Jazan, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to Hodeidah, which would allow for deliveries of food, medical and oil supplies.
“We have several ships stationed and we have storage capacity very close to Hodeidah fully stocked up,” Reem al-Hashimy, the UAE minister of state for international cooperation, said.
Colonel Turki al-Malki, spokesman for the Saud-led coalition supporting the internationally recognised government in its war against the Houthis, said on Saudi state-owned Al Ekhbariya television that two aid ships were waiting in waters near the port.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia will distribute food supplies and support the delivery of medical staff, equipment and supplies for hospitals, Hashimy said.
“We have as well planes that are out of the UAE and that are ready to be flown in once the situation allows for that,” he added.
Officials also said they would work on establishing consistent electrical supplies.
The plan is to be carried out by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre and the ERC. Hashimy said the UAE would use its military base in Eritrea to transport aid.
The assault on Hodeidah began around midnight June 13 after Iran-backed Houthis ignored a deadline to withdraw from the city and port. The Saudi-UAE aid plan was set up to help keep the military operation from causing a humanitarian disaster. The coalition promised to increase supplies to the area once the Houthis are driven out of the port.
UAE Ambassador to Germany Ali al-Ahmed said there were 60,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid on ships and trucks ready to move into the region once the fighting died down. “It’s very important for our credibility to make sure that people in need get the help they need,” Ahmed said.
Coalition members also plan to lift import restrictions they imposed on Hodeidah. They said they hoped recapturing the city could open a path to retake Sana’a.
Since the beginning of the Arab coalition’s military intervention in 2015, there have been repeated reports of Houthi attempts to disrupt relief efforts. The Saudi-led coalition has tried to open liberated areas to humanitarian assistance. After the liberation of Aden in July 2015, the coalition used the port to deliver humanitarian goods. Electricity and water supplies were restored, more than 150 schools renovated, damaged hospitals were made functional and other projects were implemented to assist the local population. Similar efforts were undertaken in Mukalla and eastern Yemen.
The recapture of Hodeidah would deprive the Houthis of their main source of income. It would also take away their suspected main location for smuggling weapons, allegedly from Iran. Those armaments include ballistic missiles that have been fired at Saudi Arabia.
The assault on Houthi positions in Hodeidah by three Yemeni factions allied with the government, in partnership with Saudi and UAE forces, highlights intra-Yemeni rivalries and the thorny regional dynamics pitting Arab countries against Iran.
The US State Department warned against an assault on Hodeidah but its line softened in recent weeks. On June 12, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was monitoring the situation but refrained from making any explicit request of coalition members.