UN Yemen mission warns of ‘devastating’ loss of life without de-escalation

The United Nations

The UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) is gravely concerned about recent hostilities in the crucial port city of Hudaydah, that have caused “devastating loss of civilian life, multiple injuries and damage to public infrastructure.”

News agencies reported that at least six civilians were killed and 18 others injured after Saudi jets bombed residential areas in the city early Friday. A Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized Government, has been battling Houthi rebels who control much of the country including the capital Sana’a, since 2015.

Conflict escalated this week, following an attack on coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates by Houthi forces, on Monday.

In another town, Saada, a stronghold of the Houthi movement – known formally as Ansar Allah – at least 100 people were killed or wounded in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition, according to media reports. A detention centre was reportedly hit, and reduced to rubble, although the death toll is still unclear.

On 30 June 2018 in Yemen, a ship berths in Hudaydah port and emergency humanitarian supplies sent by UNICEF are offloaded.

Protect civilians

UNMHA‘s mandate was approved following the historic UN-brokered Hudaydah Agreement of December 2018, to support a monitoring mission backing the ceasefire across the region and demilitarization of the city. The Red Sea port is a crucial point of entry for aid and the vast majority of Yemen’s exports.

In Friday’s statement, the UN mission reminded all parties of their commitments to protect civilians, to avoid continued loss and injury of innocent Yemenis and damage to public infrastructure.

“The consequences of continued military confrontation in Hudaydah could be catastrophic for Yemenis, given the importance of the Hudaydah ports, which remain a critical lifeline for the population” the mission warns.

According to the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA), close to 80 per cent of imported goods flowing through them.

The country has historically been 80 to 90 per cent dependent on imported food, medicines and fuel.

UNMHA’s team is currently on the ground assessing the situation.

Escalating violence

Earlier this week, the UN rights office (OHCHR) said that escalating conflict in Yemen has seen an alarming number of air and drone strikes this year, notably against civilians and non-military targets.

The latest data indicates that the level of violence this month could soon surpass that witnessed in December, judging by the number of airstrikes, drones and rockets employed by all sides to the long-running war.

So far in January, there were 839 airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, compared with 1,074 for the whole of December.

There were some 16 drone strikes, and 12 ballistic missiles and three other projectiles fired by Ansar Allah forces towards Saudi territory in December. To date in January, reports indicate there have been 10 drone strikes towards Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, condemned the violent escalation and stressed that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law.

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