UN warns attack on Yemen port threatens innocent civilians

June 08, 2018 - 11:20 am

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations warned on Friday that a military attack or siege by Yemeni pro-government forces supported by a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition on the port city of Hodeida will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Humanitarian agencies in Yemen "fear, in a prolonged worst case, that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything — even their lives" in and around Hodeida, the UN Human Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said.

The UN and its partners estimate that as many as 600,000 civilians are currently living in and around Hodeida.

Government forces have been trying to seize rebel-held Hodeida, a vital lifeline from which most of Yemen's population gets food and medicine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has pulled 71 staff members out of Yemen after a series of incidents and threats in the war-torn country.

Dominik Stillhart, ICRC's director of operations, said that ICRC's staff activities have been "blocked, threatened and directly targeted in recent weeks, and we see a vigorous attempt to instrumentalize our organization as a pawn in the conflict."

The ICRC relocated the majority of its international staff from across Yemen to Djibouti, Marie Claire Feghali of the Red Cross told The Associated Press Friday.

"We have received threats from all sides... There is an overall degradation of the security in all the areas we operate in Sanaa, Saada, Taiz, Aden and Hodeida" provinces, she said.

She said the ICRC should receive safety guarantees from all parties of the conflict to get the staff back again to Yemen. She said the ICRC still has close to 450 staff members in Yemen.

In April, unidentified armed men shot dead a humanitarian aid worker from the ICRC in Yemen's southwestern province of Taiz.

Yemen's civil war has raged since March 2015 between Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition.

The three-year conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million. It has also damaged Yemen's infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed it to the brink of famine.

The U.N. considers Yemen to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance. Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.

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