The battle begins for Hodeida, Yemen’s lifeline

THE war in Yemen has entered what may be a decisive phase. Early on June 13th convoys of Yemeni fighters, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), advanced north along the coast towards Hodeida. The city is held by the Houthis, Shia rebels who seized the capital, Sana’a, in 2015. Emirati jets and warships supported the attackers. One aid-worker counted more than 30 air strikes in the first half-hour of fighting.

Hodeida is Yemen’s main port. It handles the humanitarian aid on which four out of five Yemenis depend. Prolonged fighting could leave millions at risk of starvation. The Saudi-led coalition promises to keep the port operational, but it could be damaged either in combat or by sabotage (the Houthis reportedly placed landmines around the city). Saudi Arabia says the rebels use it to smuggle Iranian-made missiles, which they have fired at the kingdom.

The days before the offensive saw frantic efforts to avert it. Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy…

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