Saudi Backed Coalition Attacks Yemen Port City of Hudaydah, Days After Bombing Cholera Clinic
On Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition launched an attack on Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah, a rebel stronghold with a population of roughly 600,000 in the area.
Many humanitarian agencies strongly warned of a possible major humanitarian catastrophe if Hudaydah was attacked as the city serves as a vital entry point for humanitarian assistance and food to citizens in rebel-held territories. Eight million people are estimated to be at risk of starvation in Yemen.
The pro-government, Saudi-led coalition strikes began after Houthi rebels ignored a warning to evacuate by midnight Tuesday. The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network reported “intense and concentrated” strikes near the port after midnight.
Robert Mardini, regional head for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the attack was “likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation.”
Coalition Bombs Doctors Without Borders Cholera Facility
The attack on Hudaydah comes just two days after the coalition bombed a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières cholera clinic in Yemen, which was still under construction. The facility was located in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah Governorate, an area that has been decimated by Saudi Arabia led coalition strikes for more than three years.
No civilians were killed in the attack on the cholera center. Doctors Without Borders (M.S.F.) tweeted pictures of the damaged treatment facility and stated that the attack showed that the coalition had no respect for medical facilities and patients.
“With only half of the health facilities in Yemen fully functional, nearly 10 million people in acute need, and an anticipated outbreak of cholera, the CTC (cholera treatment center) had been built to save lives,” Joao Martins, who is in charge of M.S.F.’s work in war-torn Yemen, said.
The war in Yemen has been going on since 2015 when Houthi rebels wanted to push Western-backed President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the country’s capital of Sana’a. The situation worsened when former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in December 2017.
According to Yemen’s Health Ministry, the total number of casualties and severe injuries in Yemen since 2015 has reached more than 35,000. As a result of the war, a cholera epidemic began in Yemen around October of 2016. By the end of January 2018 the, World Health Organization reports that the number of suspected cholera cases had risen to over one million in what has become the largest cholera outbreak in history.
The Doctors Without Borders facility was clearly marked as a medical center, and the organization had provided the coordinates of the facility to the coalition to avoid an accidental strike, multiple times. In a post on the M.S.F. website the organization called the strike an “unacceptable attack on a medical facility.”
“MSF records clearly demonstrate that the GPS coordinates for the cholera treatment center were shared at least 12 times in writing with the coalition’s Evacuation and Humanitarian Operation Cell (EHOC). The coordinates were shared on a weekly basis over a period of more than two months prior to the bombing. EHOC acknowledged receipt of these coordinates in writing at least nine times. The SELC was therefore aware of the coordinates,” the statement on the M.S.F. website read.
The Role of Western Countries in the Yemen War
Yemen’s war may receive less media exposure in comparison to the conflict in Syria, but Western countries’ role in Yemen cannot be overlooked. The U.S. and the U.K. are Saudi Arabia’s strongest allies, and both nations have supplied billions of dollars worth of weapons to the oil-rich nation.
In April, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed to a $1.3 billion arms sales deal. While U.K. arms sales to Saudi has skyrocketed 500 percent since the Yemen war broke out. The United Nations human rights office stated in a report in April that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 61 percent of all civilian casualties in Yemen.
A new report from the Oxford Research Group revealed that the U.K. was engaged in capacity building operations across Yemen’s police, military, and intelligence agencies for an eleven year period from 2004 to 2015. The 43-page report describes the U.K’s training and assistance programs in one of the Middle East’s poorest countries.
“British success in Yemen were the result of the sustained engagement, a willingness to develop training objectives in collaboration with Yemeni colleagues, and the integration of efforts with several institutions. But the British trainers entered Yemen and taught in Yemeni institutions in a British way, which completely failed to cater for the “very different cultural and political context”. The British failure led to reduced effectiveness in training and promoted counterproductive techniques,” the report described.
Many believe the West’s intervention and backing of its allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is part of an effort to contain Iran’s influence in the region. The coalition accuses Iran of aiding Houti rebels, a fact which is debated and was claimed as “nonsense” by Michael Horton, one Yemen affair expert.
“These constant reports that the Houthis are working for the Iranians are nonsense, but the view is right out of the neocon playbook,” Horton stated. “The Israelis have been touting this line that we lost Yemen to Iran. That’s absurd. The Houthis don’t need Iranian weapons. They have plenty of their own [bold mine-DL]. And they don’t require military training. They’ve been fighting Al-Qaeda since at least 2012, and they’ve been winning. Why are we fighting a movement that’s fighting Al-Qaeda?”
Can We Stop the Yemen War?
Last March, human rights activists expressed outrage after the U.S. Congress did not approve a Senate resolution to end Washington’s role in Yemen.
“At this point, three years later and so many human lives later, it feels like such a criminal act that they won’t even acknowledge this,” Shireen al-Adeimi, a doctoral student at Harvard University who is originally from Yemen, said in a telephone interview with Aljazeera.
Human rights organizations have also continuously protested Western arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the use of weapons in human rights violations. Instead, Western countries continue to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons and skirt around the Yemen issue.
Just days ago the United Arab Emirates asked the U.S. for support for the Hudaydah offensive, claiming a victory there could be a turning point in the war and force the rebels to the negotiating table.
As a response to the Hudaydah strikes, the U.K. called for a U.N. Security Council meeting which is expected to be held on Thursday.