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Battle for Yemen port city carries "catastrophic" risks for civilians

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Wednesday launched the "largest assault of Yemen's war," according to Reuters, for the port city of Hudaydah.

Data: IHS Markit Conflict Monitor; Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The big picture: The battle puts hundreds of thousands of civilian lives at risk, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told NPR. The port is a major lifeline for the Yemeni people, millions of whom are already suffering from famine, cholera, and other life-threatening conditions. Two-thirds of all humanitarian aid to Yemen enters through Hudaydah's port, per CNN, and 600,000 people living in the city and surrounding area are at risk from the conflict.

What's happening

  • The Emiratis are leading the charge, with the support of the Saudi-led coalition, in efforts to re-take Hudaydah from the Houthi rebels. Four Emirati casualties were confirmed on Wednesday, per the Washington Post.
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced a plan to assist Hudaydah and its surrounding areas, Reuters reports. They plan to "distribute food, provide medical supplies, equipment and staff to hospitals, sustain electrical stations and provide economic support," while establishing shipping lanes from both countries to Hudaydah.
  • The UN Security Council met Thursday, per Reuters, to discuss the situation.

What they're saying

  • Perry Cammack, a former State Department official and a fellow at the Carnegie Empowerment for International Peace, told Axios that taking Hudaydah would be a major strategic win for the Saudis, as it would "cut off Hudaydah support to resupply the Houthis," and ultimately help them take the capital, Sana'a. However, he said, there are "potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences."
  • David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday: "The attack on Hudaydah is an attack on the political and diplomatic process to bring peace to Yemen.  UN Security Council members including the U.S. and UK governments... must act now to secure a ceasefire before the people in Hudaydah city suffer the same fate as those in Aleppo, Mosul or Raqqa.”
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