Saudi-led coalition calls for UN supervision of Yemen port

"This would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies ... while at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons"
Pro-government forces walk in the port of the western Yemeni coastal town of Mokha as they advance in a bid to try to drive the Shiite Huthi rebels away from the Red Sea coast. Forces supporting President Abedrabbo Masnour Hadi, backed by the coalition, began a major offensive on January 7 to recapture the coastline overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait. (SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images)
By Reuters
Mon 20 Mar 2017 08:10 AM

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen called on Sunday for the
United Nations to place a strategic port under its supervision after 42 Somalis
were killed in an attack on their refugee boat nearby.

The
refugees had departed from the western port city of Hodeidah en route to Sudan
when it came under fire in an incident aid workers said had involved a
helicopter .

The
Red Sea port near the Bab al-Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen's armed
Houthi movement, which has been fighting Saudi Arabia and its allies in a
two-year-old conflict.

While
the Arab alliance denied responsibility for the attack on Friday, it called for
jurisdiction over Hodeidah port to be transferred to the UN.

"This
would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, while
at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people
trafficking," it said in a statement. It did not address a call by Somalia
to investigate.

It is
still unclear who was behind the assault.

"We
do not know who carried it out, but survivors said they came under attack from
another boat at 9 pm, the crew used lights and shouted to signal this is a
civilian boat," said Iolanda Jaquemet, a spokeswoman for the International
Committee of the Red Cross.

"Nevertheless,
it did not have any effect and a helicopter joined in the attack," she
said.

Hodeidah
is part of a broad battlefront where forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu
Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, are fighting the Iran-allied
Houthi movement, which controls most of northern and western Yemen.

The
Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and troops loyal to
former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have fired missiles into neighbouring
Saudi Arabia.

The
Bab al-Mandab is a strategic waterway through which nearly four million barrels of
oil are shipped daily.

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