Yemen’s Huthi rebels accused the government and its Saudi-led allies on Tuesday of deliberately targeting food warehouses in Hodeida as they resumed an offensive on the rebel-held port city after an 11-week pause.
“International food supply warehouses were targeted in Hodeida (late on Monday), a clear sign that there is a plan by the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies to make warehouses and densely populated neighbourhoods legitimate targets of their terrorist operations,” the head of the rebels’ Supreme Revolutionary Council, Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, said.
There was no immediate confirmation that any aid warehouses had been hit from the World Food Programme or other UN agencies battling the threat of famine hanging over millions of Yemenis.
WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel declined to comment on the Huthi statement.
The Red Sea port of Hodeida is a vital lifeline for aid shipments to Yemen and the WFP has previously warned that any major fighting could halt food distributions to eight million Yemenis dependent on them for survival.
The rebel leader accused the rest of the international community of not doing enough to stop the coalition resuming its offensive, which it described as “terrorism”.
“International tolerance of terrorism has only encouraged (the coalition) to plan and deliberately commit crimes,” Huthi said.
The coalition announced late on Monday that it was ending the 11-week pause it had observed while UN efforts to convene peace negotiations continued.
Proposed UN-brokered talks in Geneva fell apart earlier this month when rebel delegates failed to show up, charging that they had not received promised guarantees for their return home afterwards.
Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse the Huthis of receiving arms smuggled from Iran through Hodeida, a charge both Tehran and the rebels deny.
The coalition first launched an offensive to retake the city in June, after capturing several of the province’s smaller towns.
The rebels seized the Red Sea coast along with the capital Sanaa and much of the north in 2014.
The coalition intervened in March of the following year, when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as the rebels closed in on his last refuge in second city Aden.
The conflict has since killed nearly 10,000 people and triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.