At least 450 Yemenis have been killed in the first nine days of August, making it one of the bloodiest periods since the war broke out three and a half years ago. And it could get a lot worse.
An international coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and backed by the United States, is preparing to retake the strategic port city of Hodeidah. The operation could prove disastrous for Yemen’s most vulnerable: Seventy percent of all of Yemen’s goods enter into the country through Hodeidah, so a protracted battle could quickly turn into a humanitarian disaster, which prevents millions of people from receiving food and aid.
The UN is desperately trying to stop this attack and restart failed peace talks in the process. Its Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, is hoping to bring all sides together in Geneva on September 6.
Yet, government troops continue to advance towards the city.
“It’s going to be a fierce battle,” 23 year-old fighter Saeed, told VICE News. “The Houthis have big military capabilities — but we are advancing towards Hodeidah.”
VICE News embedded with Yemeni troops as they prepared to retake a crucial Houthi supply route, just 90 minutes from the city. But even a seemingly straightforward operation like this one descended into chaos. It wasn’t long into the advance that Saeed and several men found themselves cut off from their convoy, trapped by Houthi sniper fire. They were forced to run for cover before eventually making their escape.
“They must’ve known about our attack,” he says, as mortar fire rages around us.
A battle in Hodeidah city itself would be one of the deadliest in a war that has already claimed more than ten thousand lives and thrust 23 million more into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis . More than 120,000 civilians have fled the city in anticipation. It’s easy to see why. Not long after government forces started their push, ambulances began rolling up outside the one semi-functioning hospital in the area.
Ten-year-old Mohammed becomes the first civilian to be caught up in the crossfire. Ali Jalmoud says his son was playing in their house with a Houthi mortar hit. Dr. Mahdi Ba-Kather is the one remaining doctor in a local hospital and he’s struggling to cope with the influx of casualties. Mohammed has several shrapnel wounds — one’s hit an artery and staff are trying desperately to control the bleeding.
“We’re tying it tight to stop it” Dr. Ba-Kather explained to Mohammed as he uses gauze as a makeshift tourniquet. Lacking basic supplies or a qualified surgeon, all he can do is triage Mohammed and send him to another hospital three hours away in the hopes he survives the journey.
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