Hodeida battle will save lives in Yemen

The Houthi rebels have controlled the Hodeida area since 2014 and 600,000 residents have been at their mercy.



By Mustafa Al Zarooni

Published: Tue 19 Jun 2018, 8:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 19 Jun 2018, 10:33 PM

It is obvious to those monitoring the humanitarian situation in Yemen that the battle for Hodeida is a 'rescue operation', an effort to help people who have been suffering under the Houthis. The Arab coalition's offensive to liberate the port city is important to facilitate a political process - with caution, to prevent harm to civilians, according to Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
The Houthi rebels have controlled the Hodeida area since 2014 and 600,000 residents have been at their mercy. They seized the port and used it to smuggle in weapons. To make matters worse, they used the humanitarian aid passing through the port to woo unarmed civilians to join them in the war. It was a difficult choice for these people - to die of hunger or to fight against their will.
The international community and humanitarian organisations, being aware of the stark realities in Yemen, feared the port would be completely shut if fighting breaks out. Most aid to the war-stricken people of Yemen passes through this port. Considering this, the Arab coalition and forces loyal to the government had to put off the offensive several times.
The Arab coalition even appealed to the United Nations to mediate to open the port and Sanaa airport so that much-needed relief material could be dispatched to the Yemenis. Efforts by the UN did not persuade the militants to give up the area, hence the Arab coalition was left with no option but to enter Hodeida.
Speed is of essence and a swift strike would disrupt the Houthis weapons' smuggling from Iran. The group has been using mosques as cover; they also launch assaults from and use innocent people as human shields.
Let me clarify here that it would be a 'relief' for ordinary Yemenis when Hodeida is liberated. And the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and brave Emirati troops should be saluted for taking the fight to the Houthis
Since the start of the Hodeida campaign, the UAE has been keen to prevent a humanitarian tragedy. The President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered an urgent 'relief bridge' to the Yemeni city. This includes food and humanitarian assistance material to be sent by 10 ships laden with 13,500 tonnes of food products and an air-bridge of three flights carrying 10,436 packets of food.
The war in Yemen needs to end, and soon. "We cannot accept that this war will continue for another two-three years just because the Houthis control Hodeida," said Gargash. The current situation requires joint efforts by the international community, but recognising the fragility of the situation and the importance of the port, the UAE has taken an ethical approach to ensure civilians are out of harm's way and collateral damage is minimised.
Sadly, the Houthis have ignored several proposals for negotiations and the voice of reason but the round table is open to them. Surrender they should to give peace a chance without further loss of lives. Yemen and its people have had enough of war. They want their voices heard through the vote, away from fear of the gun.
-malzarooni@khaleejtimes.com
 


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