With American backing, the United Arab Emirates has resumed an all-out offensive aimed at capturing Yemen's most vital port, Hodeida, where Shiite rebels are digging in to fight to the last man. Thousands of civilians are caught in the middle, trapped by minefields and barrages of mortars and airstrikes, while threatening to throw the country into outright famine.
Hodeida's port literally keeps millions of starving Yemenis alive, as the entry point for 70 percent of food imports and international aid. More than 8 million of Yemen's nearly 29 million people have no food other than what is provided by world relief agencies, a figure that continues to rapidly rise. The battle has already killed hundreds of civilians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, adding to the more than 2 million Yemenis displaced by the war. Amid the fighting, cholera cases in the area leaped from 497 in June to 1,347 in August, Save the Children reported Tuesday.
The assault first began in June, then paused in August as the U.N. envoy for Yemen tried to cobble together peace talks, the first in two years. That attempt fell apart, and the offensive resumed in mid-September. The United States effectively gave a green light to push ahead when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 12 certified continued American support for the Saudi-led coalition's air campaign against the Houthis. The coalition has come under heavy criticism for its relentless airstrikes since 2015, which U.N. experts say have caused the majority of the estimated 10,000 civilian deaths in the conflict and could constitute a war crime. Several strikes in August killed dozens of children.
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