Saudi Arabia Strikes Yemen’s Main Port City

Yemen’s exiled government, backed by Saudi Arabia, attacked the city of Hodeida. Yemen is currently the poorest country in the Middle East and 70% of the food enters through its port. With a country that is on the brink of starvation, the assault on the city is detrimental to the survival of millions of Yemen’s citizens. In addition to the food sources, most of its humanitarian aid and fuel enters through Hodeida as well. According to the Associated Press, 8.4 million people living in Yemen are at risk of starving and roughly two-thirds of its total population rely on the humanitarian aid provided from international organizations that go through Hodeida. This assault is the biggest offensive in the years-long civil war and it was reported that in the first 30 minutes of the attack, there were 30 rocket barrages on the city.

Aid workers from multiple organizations corresponded with the media and described the brutal attack. Jolien Veldwijk, the acting country director of the aid group CARE International, stated, “Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes … we thought it could not get any worse, but unfortunately we were wrong.” Additionally, Robert Mardini, the regional director for the Red Cross, said the assault on Hodeida “is likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen.”

According to the United Nations, nearly 600,000 people live in Hodeida. Although the assault is ongoing and causalities have not been recorded, it is likely many residents will have lost their homes and possibly even their lives. Yemen’s exiled government, who formed the coalition with Saudi Arabia, released a statement that said, “[The government] has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida. Liberation of the port of Hodeida is a milestone in our struggle to regain Yemen from the militias.”

According to NPR, the United Nations anticipated the attack and fled the city before Saudi Arabia and the exiled government struck Hodeida. Although the UN provides nearly $3 billion in aid, additional measures need to be made to protect the lives of citizens who are still battling the cholera epidemic and are faced with violence from the rebelling Houthis, the former government, and the terrorist organizations. Without peacekeeping forces present, it is likely that the predominantly Suuni invading forces will take no mercy on innocent Shiites living in the city, which has happened in both the distant and close past. The Security Council must step up and take a larger role in the crisis that has gotten worse and worse since the outbreak of the civil war.

The civil war in Yemen started in 2015 and is mainly between the Houthis and the Hadi government. Multiple terrorist organizations are also involved in the conflict, including Da’esh, Al Qaeda, and Ansar al-Sharia. The Houthi’s are Shiite Muslims and are aligned with Iran. They have held Hodeida since the beginning of the conflict, as well as the capital city Sana’a. In contrast, the Hadi government are Suuni Muslims and are backed by Saudi Arabia, with support from other predominantly Suuni countries throughout the Middle East. The civil war in Yemen is one of the many proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have a historic tension due to the sectarian differences. The assault on Hodeida marks a potential shift in power between the rebelling Houthis and the former government.

Without the free flow of goods from Hodeida into the rest of Yemen, millions of civilians will suffer immensely. An increase in international intervention must happen to stabilize the country and rebuild the war-torn country. Yemen is one of the worst humanitarian crisis’ occurring today and will continue to worsen until more humanitarian aid is distributed, and UN security forces intervene to protect civilians from terrorist attacks and the ongoing conflict.