US sits idly by amid concerns over imminent UAE attack on Hudaydah
The United States is standing idly by in the face of an imminent military offensive by its ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah, which the UN and aid groups have warned could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe there.
In the past few days, forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have closed in on Hudaydah, reportedly seizing a number of nearby areas. The UAE, which is a party to the Saudi-led coalition, is playing a key role in the offensive.
The coalition, which has been waging a deadly war on Yemen since 2015, claims that the Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement is using the besieged port for weapons delivery, an allegation rejected by the fighters.
The Houthi movement has been both running state affairs in the absence of an effective government and defending the country against the Saudi aggression with the help of allied popular forces.
Ansarullah has pledged a firm response to a military offensive against Hudaydah. Residents of the port city are also preparing to help the Houthis against any such invasion.
Yemeni media reports over the past days suggest that people from other parts of Yemen are rushing to the port city to assist the armed forces in their counter-attacks in the wake of a potential Emirati offensive.
UAE invasion looming on horizon
On Saturday, the UAE has given the UN and foreign NGOs three days to leave Hudaydah before it mounts an attack on the Red Sea port city, which is a lifeline for aid flow into the war-torn country.
Correspondence from European donor governments to aid groups in Yemen warned that “a military assault now looks imminent.”
“The Emiratis have informed us today that they will now give a 3-day grace period for the UN (and their partners) to leave the city,” read the correspondence seen by Reuters.
UN rushing to stave off assault
Meanwhile, the UN has warned that a potential raid could cost up to 250,000 lives in Hudaydah which has a population of 600,000 people.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said an attack on the city would be “catastrophic” and that aid agencies were hoping to “stay and deliver” in Yemen.
However, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have withdrawn their staff members from the key Yemeni port.
The UK government has issued guidance to aid agencies receiving British funding to leave the city. The French aid group Doctors Without Borders, known as MSF, has also suspended its operations there.
On Monday, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors over the situation in Hudaydah amid heavy fighting there.
After the meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya called for deescalation and said the Security Council would be “closely” following the developments in Yemen.
He further expressed hope that efforts by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths would bring about a positive resolution of the conflict.
Additionally on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres met with Yemen’s self-proclaimed foreign minister, Khaled Alyemany, at the UN headquarters in New York.
During the meeting, Guterres stressed that “everyone should redouble efforts to find a political solution and avoid a fierce, bloody battle for Hudaydah,” according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
Guterres also noted that Griffiths was locked in “intense negotiations” with Yemen’s Houthi movement, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to find a “way to avoid the military confrontation in Hudaydah.”