The Saudi-led coalition's offensive on the Houthi-held Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodeidah seems to have stalled over the past week, with the resultant stalemate raising hopes for a political solution. The UN has reportedly entered into separate talks with both sides over intervening to protect the vital port's operations from being disrupted. The coastal city crucially handles the bulk of humanitarian aid entering the densely populated northern areas of Yemen under Houthi control in which the vast majority of the country's citizens live.
There have been credible fears over the past year since the coalition first signaled its intent to take Hodeidah that the humanitarian consequences could be so severe that they might push the 20 million aid-dependent civilians over the edge and into starvation, with the deadly consequences exacerbating the rapid outbreak of diseases among them that have already seen over one million people contract cholera. Clearly, however, these concerns ultimately didn't deter the coalition from going ahead with its planned campaign to seize this strategic Red Sea city, though the Saudis and their ilk were in for a rude awakening if they expected a rapid victory.
The Houthi rebels have fought tooth and nail to repel the much larger invasion force and have more or less succeeded in slowing the multinational forces to a crawl in keeping them just outside the city's limits. There's no doubt that the house-to-house and possibly even tunnel-to-tunnel fighting that the coalition would have to engage in would lead to unacceptable civilian losses beyond those that have already occurred, which is why the UN is so eager to intervene between both sides before this happens, though therein lays the apple of discord.
The UAE reportedly wants the Houthis to completely withdraw from the city prior to handing it over to the UN, something that's unacceptable for the rebels because they fear that the coalition will simply continue their advance northward all the way to the capital of the Sanaa. The Houthis also believe that the UN has no competencies to control anything and can therefore only observe and monitor the situation. These divergent positions complicate the striking of a political solution and suggest that the stalemate might continue to drag on unless the coalition irresponsibly escalates the conflict.
To discuss this issue in further detail, Andrew is joined by Suzan Hanna, Egyptian-Australian activist and awareness campaigner for Yemen.
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