“The people who have fled their home to internally displaced person sites have lost so much already. An attack like this cannot be justified — ever. Parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians.” — Lise Grande, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen
HAJJAH, YEMEN — At least eight civilians were killed and 30 others wounded on Sunday when Saudi airstrikes bombed a camp for displaced people in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah province, according to eyewitness statements and medical sources.
Saudi media outlets reported on Sunday that the Saudi-led coalition increased its airstrikes on “Houthi gatherings in the Hajjah governorate.”
Lise Grande, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said in the wake of the attack:
The people who have fled their home to internally displaced person sites have lost so much already. An attack like this cannot be justified — ever. Parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians.”
In retaliation for the attacks, Yemen’s armed forces announced that they struck a gathering of Saudi troops in the Kingdom’s capital with a high-precision Badr P-1 ballistic missile. The projectile accurately struck its designated target, leaving an unspecified number of soldiers either killed or wounded, according to a source in Yemen’s armed forces.
Hitting Hodeida and Yemen’s food pipeline
In Hodeida, the Red Sea Silos, which house 51,000 metric tons of wheat — almost a quarter of the World Food Programme’s stock — were struck with mortar shells resulting in a fire that destroyed at least two of the silos.
The attack came after the United Nations announced recently that warring parties in Yemen had agreed to allow international aid agencies to reach the Red Sea Silos, meaning the attack was likely an attempt to thwart the efforts of the United Nations to deliver much-needed food-aid to Yemen, and to continue the coalition’s policy of starvation.
The United Nations, responding to the attack on the silos, said “this is the first time we are seeing conditions like this. We need this wheat.”
Following the attack, the United Nations’ food agency demanded access to its wheat stocks. Stephen Anderson, World Food Programme country director, said that access is needed to transport what’s left out of the silos.
The Red Sea Silos were reopened in 2016 after having undergone expansions, updates, and development in machinery, equipment, and daily production capacity — producing the equivalent of 2,000 tons per day of white flour.
The UN statement did not identify the source of the shelling. However, the Houthis accused Saudi-led coalition mercenaries of carrying out the attack, saying the targeting of the Red Sea Mills, which are the only mills operating in Yemen and are responsible for feeding millions, is a form of collective punishment and will have catastrophic repercussions.
The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, backed by the United States, have been using starvation as a weapon against Yemenis in order to compel them to submit — causing massive suffering of tens of millions of people and destabilizing the entire region for years, and possibly decades, to come.
A crumbling peace process?
Meanwhile, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi political wing, Ansar Allah, met UN Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who arrived on Saturday in a bid to shore up a truce reached in Sweden between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis last December. Al-Houthi reiterated his commitment to the Sweden Convention.
Ansar Allah has already begun to pull out troops from the port of Hodeida, but Saudi-backed militias are thus far refusing to take a similar step and withdraw from Hodeida’s Kilo 16 road, an essential thoroughfare that connects Sana’a with Hodeida and acts as a conduit for food and aid supplies to 80 percent of Yemen’s population.
The warring sides reached a truce agreement in December after days of talks under the auspices of the UN in Sweden. Hopes were high that 2019 would be better and military operations would slow; however, Yemen saw a sharp escalation in the first 10 days of this year, casting a shadow over the viability of the entire peace process.
The coalition is still operating on the premise that capturing Hodeida would be an economic and military blow to the Houthis and would ultimately weaken the Yemeni resistance.
Top Photo | Hodeida Red Sea grain silos are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeida, Yemen, June 16, 2018. Abduljabbar Zeyad | Reuters
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.