In the fish market near the Hodeida harbor, white marble basins that were once filled to the brim with fish are now often empty of fish because very little comes from the sea. When anyone manages to come back with fish, a only few customers scurry behind them.
HODEIDA, YEMEN — At least eight fishermen were killed and five injured off the northern coast of Yemen’s Badh Island on Wednesday, when Saudi Apaches launched airstrikes on their fishing boat in waters near the port city of Hodeida. Ten fishermen are still missing following the strike.
Yasser Abker Ahmed Gethem, a 24-year-old fisherman who was in injured in the strike, recounted the events from a hospital bed in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room.
We were carrying the fish we caught in order to sell them to feed our families. As we waited for sunrise, suddenly, at about 3 a.m. Saudi airstrikes hit our boat. Then we fell into the sea and the warplane came back again and targeted us with another raid. Then I woke up in the hospital — I was lucky because most of my colleagues were lost or killed.”
The death toll is expected to rise. The hospital where most of the victims of the airstrike are being treated is already crowded with a number of victims of previous airstrikes. Ambulances have been unable to transport the wounded victims to Sana’a or other provinces because of concerns over being targeted by more Saudi coalition airstrikes.
Sameer A. H., a father of three, has been fishing off Hodeida’s coast since he was a child, but for the first time in 30 years he found himself unable to feed his family, so he decided to venture further out to sea. “We were really scared to go out to sea,” he said. He told his family goodbye before he set off, knowing he might not be back. Sameer’s colorful fishing boat — emblazoned with the message “The believer is like a green leaf, he will not fall no matter how the storm blows” — never returned to shore.
The head of the General Authority for Marine Fisheries, Abdul Qader Al-Wadai, confirmed to MintPress News that rescue teams recovered the bodies of eight people and rescued five who were wounded so far. Ten fishermen are still missing and rescue teams have been unable to continue to search for them as a result of the Coalition warplanes continuing to circle over the scene.
As they emptied their net at a harbor in Red Sea port city of Hodeida — which lies just three kilometers from the frontlines — Yemeni fishermen told MintPress that they and their fellow fisherman are facing tragedy. Nasser, who was working in the fishing harbor, said “there are colleagues still missing at sea … they went out and never came back,” adding “a rocket could strike you and you wouldn’t know where it came from.”
As with thousands of Yemen’s fishermen, the danger of Saudi attacks at sea has forced Nasser, who is a survivor of a Saudi airstrike at sea, to stay close to shore. Hodeida, home to Yemen’s most vital port and only source of food and supplies for the region’s residents, has been the target of Saudi-led coalition attacks since 2015 when the war began.
A profound impact on livelihoods and lives
In the fish market near the harbor, white marble basins that were once filled to the brim with fish are now often empty as very little comes from the sea. When anyone manages to come back with fish, only a few customers scurry behind them.
On August 3, 2018, the coalition launched its initial airstrike salvo on a fish market known as the fishing harbor, killing dozens of fishermen and wounding others who were later transferred to Al-Thawrah Hospital, which was hit by coalition bombs a short time later. That same month, coalition warplanes conducted two airstrikes on a fishing dock. Prior to that, four fishing boats were targeted off of Hodeida’s coast, inside of Yemen’s territorial waters, killing other fishermen.
According to Yemen’s General Authority for Marine Fisheries in the Red Sea, Saudi airstrikes killed 28 fishermen in three attacks on Hodeida in the past three days alone.
At one time an estimated 500,000 fishermen plied the waters of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, a crucial lifeline for aid. Fishing boats from the port used to go as far as 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) into the Red Sea. Now they can’t go out beyond about five nautical miles.
Wednesday’s attacks, which were hardly the Saudi-led coalition’s first violation of a UN-brokered ceasefire, came the day after the newly-appointed head of the United Nations mission, Danish Lt. Gen. Michael Anker Lollesgaard, arrived in Hodeida to monitor the truce agreement between the Houthis and the coalition.
As to whether this attack will affect the truce, some Yemeni politicians who spoke to MintPress said that the truce is still the best chance yet of ending the Saudi war that has killed thousands of people since it began in 2015 and pushed 14 million to the brink of famine.
However, local authorities in Hodeida province said in a statement that continued Saudi attacks on innocents, in light of the presence of the UN Commission to monitor the implementation of the Sweden truce, is clear evidence of Saudi intention to thwart the agreement. The spokesman for Yemen’s Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, told the Yemeni army official website, 26th of September: “We will not stand idly by.”
This video below, obtained by MintPress News, shows the aftermath of a Saudi Coalition airstrike on a group of fisherman off Yemen’s Badh Island near Hodeida.
Top Photo | This photo, released by the Ansarallah Media Center, shows the aftermath of a Saudi Coalition airstrike on a group of fisherman near the coast of Hodeida, Yemen on Feb. 13, 2019.