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Yemen loyalists take Hodeida's main hospital: officials

Pro-government forces relaunched an offensive on Hodeida this week [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 November, 2018

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Officials said pro-government forces took over the May 22 hospital on Friday evening.

Pro-government forces fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken the main hospital in the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeida, government military officials said on Saturday. 

The May 22 Hospital lies in the east of the rebel-held city, a key aid conduit that is the target of a renewed offensive by the Saudi and Emirati-backed government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

On Thursday, loyalist forces backed by Saudi airstrikes entered the city for the first time, pushing towards the port and using bulldozers to remove concrete road blocks installed by the rebels.

Officials said pro-government forces took over the hospital on Friday evening.

Amnesty International had accused the Houthis on Thursday of "deliberate militarisation" of the facility after they stationed fighters on its roof.

A medical source told AFP on Wednesday that the rebels had forced staff out of the hospital and set up sniper positions.

Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's commercial imports and practically all UN-supervised humanitarian aid pass through Hodeida's port.

The Houthis have controlled Hodeida since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and swept though much of the rest of the country, triggering an intervention by the Saudi-led coalition the following year and a devastating war of attrition.

The rebels have since been driven out of virtually all of the south and much of the Red Sea coast.

On Friday, Yemen's government announced the launch of the "vast offensive" on the key port city of Hodeida, an assault that threatens to plunge the country into famine.

The consequences of fighting halting to humanitarian aid could be disastrous for Yemen, with tens thousands at risk of dying from starvation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that half a million Yemenis had fled fighting in Hodeida, but thousands more remain trapped in the city.

UN agencies say some 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen, which they have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said Thursday it will nearly double food aid to Yemen to reach 14 million people a month - almost half the population - "to avert mass starvation"..

Aid is already being supplied to between 7 and 8 million people every day, the group said on Thursday, "but the situation has now got so dire that WFP is preparing to scale up", spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in Geneva.

"Indications are that even greater efforts will be needed to avert mass starvation," Verhoosel added.

"Unless it does, this will become a country of living ghosts, its people reduced to sacks of bones."

More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organisation, although human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.

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