July 19, 2020 | News | No Comments
The Saudi-led coalition has denied carrying out an air strike that killed at least 26 people in the contested Yemeni port city Hodeidah, as the World Health Organisation warned that the devastated country is on the verge of a new cholera epidemic.
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Health officials had said a coalition air strike on Thursday killed 26 people in a fishing port and a market in Hodeidah, which has seen heavy fighting since the the launch of an offensive to seize the strategic port on June 12 from Houthi rebels.
The attack also damaged the Al-Thawra hospital, Yemen’s largest, on which hundreds of thousands of people rely, according to a UN official.
The coalition’s spokesman Turki al-Malki blamed the Iranian-backed rebels for the carnage.
"Coalition did not carry out any operations in Hodeidah today… Houthi militia are behind killing of civilians in Hodeida," he told a Saudi-owned broadcaster.
The Red Sea port acts as a lifeline for supplies which if disrupted could lead to famine. The Houthis have offered to hand it over to international management but the Saudi-led coalition, which launched the war in 2015 to stop the rebels from taking over the country, insists that they withdraw from the coast.
The war had devastated the already impoverished country, and on Friday WHO warned that another cholera epidemic could ravage Yemen.
"We had two major waves of cholera epidemics in recent years and unfortunately the trend data that we’ve seen in the last days to weeks suggests that we may be on the cup of the third major wave of cholera epidemics in Yemen," WHO emergency response chief Peter Salama told reporters.
More than a million cases of cholera had been reported between 2016 and 2018, the worst epidemic in recent memory.
Thursday’s bombings took place after Houthi attacks on crude oil tankers in the Red Sea forced Saudi Arabia to halt oil exports through a Red Sea channel. The rebels on Tuesday had announced they would stop the attacks to give peace talks a chance.
The United Nations said it was planning to invite the adversaries to talks in Geneva on September 6 to discuss confidence building measures,
"I am very conscious that each day costs lives which might have been saved," said UN Mediator Martin Griffiths at a Security Council briefing.
The war has had an especially devastating effect on children, with a child dying every 10 minutes from a preventable disease, UNICEF director Henrietta H Fore said in a July report.