UN Issues Dire Warning Ahead Of Anticipated Assault On Hodeidah

The UN Security Council met on Monday, June 11 to conduct an urgent meeting regarding an expected attack on Yemeni port city Hodeidah. Hodeidah is considered the last remaining lifeline for the country’s war-ravaged population. The city is said to be in extreme danger, as Saudi-led coalition forces prepare to invade it. Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, Moshin Siddiquey, said in an interview with CNN that “From our partners, we are receiving that there is a clear indication that families are leaving the city and there have already been shortages of fuel and other essential supplies.” He estimated that over a million people live in the greater Hodeidah area which is expected to be targeted in the offensive.

The offensive is led by Saudi Arabian forces in conjunction with countries such as the United Arab Emirates. Coalition forces have been deadlocked with rebel forces since the coalition offensive began against them in March of 2015.

In a coalition attack Monday, June 11, an airstrike hit a newly constructed cholera treatment centre operated by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders. While there were no casualties, Joao Martins, head of the group’s Yemen mission, stated that the strike “shows complete disrespect for medical facilities and patients. Whether intentional or a result of negligence, it is totally unacceptable. The compound was clearly marked as a health facility and its coordinates were shared with the coalition.” He continued, noting that “With only half of health facilities in Yemen fully functional, nearly 10 million people in acute need, and an anticipated outbreak of cholera, the [treatment centre] had been built to save lives. [Doctors Without Borders] has temporarily frozen its activities in Yemen until the safety of its staff and patients is guaranteed.” According to the World Health Organization, the Yemeni cholera outbreak has claimed 2,272 lives with 1,088,030 suspected cases.

In anticipation of the attack, the UN warned that as many as a quarter of a million people could be killed in an offensive against the beleaguered city. The UN has already labeled Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. It also noted that the rebel-controlled port city serves as an entry point of more than 70% of foreign humanitarian aid into Yemen. The United Kingdom has reportedly opposed the offensive, but the United States is said to have offered tacit agreement.

This offensive clearly risks plunging the country into further violence, in addition to cutting off the last of the major routes for humanitarian aid into the country. It is a move that could effectively doom millions of people, and even the United States “yellow lighting” this plan is unacceptable. The risk of millions of innocent civilian’s lives far outweighs any strategic value the city could hold. The United States must back the United Kingdom’s policy of opposition by reaching out to coalition forces and directing them not to carry out the assault. The United States has the opportunity to use its influence to protect human lives, as opposed to “tacitly agree[ing]” to sacrifice them.