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Saudi-led coalition seizes main road linking Hodeidah to Sanaa in Yemen

Saudi-led coalition seizes main road linking Hodeidah to Sanaa in Yemen

ADEN: Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition seized the main road linking the port city of Hodeidah to the capital Sanaa, blocking a supply route for the Houthi group that controls both cities, military sources and residents said on Thursday.

The Western-backed alliance in Yemen resumed its offensive after the collapse of peace talks on Saturday which the United Nations had hoped would avert an assault on the Red Sea city, the country’s main port and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, and start a process to end the three-year war.

“The situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days. Families are absolutely terrified by the bombardment, shelling and air strikes,” UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande said in a statement on Thursday.

The coalition of Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has said taking control of Hodeidah would force the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement to the negotiating table by cutting off its main supply line.

“The main entrance in Hodeidah leading to Sanaa has been closed after forces backed by the UAE took control of the road,” a pro-coalition military source said.

Residents said the main eastern gate had been damaged in air strikes by coalition warplanes and that fighting was continuing on secondary streets off the main road.

There is another more circuitous route between Hodeidah on the western coast of Yemen to the capital in the north.

The United Nations fears an attack on Hodeidah, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies, could lead to a famine in the impoverished country where an estimated 8.4 million people are facing starvation.

Grande said people in Hodeidah are struggling to survive.

“More than 25 per cent of children are malnourished; 900,000 people in the governorate are desperate for food and 90,000 pregnant women are at enormous risk.”

The coalition accuses the Houthis of smuggling weapons and has imposed stringent measures on imports through Hodeidah.

Any interruption of supplies from the port would have an impact on the wider population in the nation of 28 million, including more than 11 million children facing the threat of food shortages, disease and displacement.

In a Sanaa hospital, a malnutrition ward has been set up to treat children, many under the age of 2. The toddlers, with protruding rib cages, are among hundreds of thousands of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018

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