Saudi-backed forces are fighting to take control of the port city of Hodeidah.
Hodeidah, on Yemen’s West coast, has over half-a-million inhabitants. It is the only major port controlled by the Houthi insurgents who have had control of most of the populated areas of Yemen since late 2014. The Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led coalition which started a bombing campaign against them in 2015.
The war has killed 10,000 (two-thirds of whom are civilians) and injured 55,000 people. Most of Yemen’s infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged, including almost all health centres.
The Saudis aim to put their own preferred president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in charge, and they are backed by the US and UK. The Saudis believe the Houthis are closely supported by Iran, although their war seems to have made the Houthi-Iranian relationship closer, bringing about what they fear most.
The Saudi war has made conditions in the country much worse. 50 000 people died of cholera last year, 22 million need humanitarian aid and 8 million are on the verge of starvation.
Most food and other basic supplies come through Hodeidah’s port, as do weapons for the Houthi forces. It is likely the assault on Hodeidah, which began on 13 June, will make conditions much worse for civilians. Although the Saudis hope for a quick victory it is not at all clear they will not face prolonged and bitter urban warfare in Hodeidah.
The US, which helps the Saudi war with logistical and intelligence support, has repeatedly warned the Saudis not to launch an attack on Hodeidah. With the attack underway the US seems to have fallen into line behind the Saudis.
The British have observers embedded with the Saudi airforce who are allegedly there to ensure the rules of war are kept to. In fact the British serve as a deliberately ineffective – but politically useful – adornment on the brutal Saudi war.
UK arms sales hit £1.1bn in the first half of 2017. The Tory government is much more concerned to continue this trade than the are about the fate of millions of poor Yemeni people.
Jeremy Corbyn has demanded that the UK “halt the arms supplies and demand an immediate ceasefire in Yemen.”