A massive offensive was launched last week by Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates-led forces against Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah. They used weapons supplied by Britain and the US.
Already over 300 civilians have been killed, and the lives of tens of thousands more are under threat.
In addition aid workers have warned the assault on the port could shut down the entry route for 70 percent of Yemen’s food and humanitarian aid.
Two thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.
In a series of tweets, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the people in Hodeidah were “bracing for the worst,” and tens of thousands were expected to flee in the coming days.
“People live in slums in the outskirts surviving on breadcrumbs they find in the garbage,” said the group. “With the little money they do have, they buy cooking oil in plastic bags just enough to cook one meal a day.”
Saudi Arabian forces have been fighting in Yemen for more than three years to restore a regime that protects its interests and those of the US and its allies.
Fighting has seen 13,000 killed, the large majority civilians murdered in Saudi Arabian air strikes.
The war has devastated the country’s already fragile infrastructure, including the health sector. There is now a cholera epidemic.
The charity Save the Children estimates that 50,000 children died in 2017 of extreme hunger or disease.
The latest Saudi assault has been encouraged by intensified US pressure on Iran. Iran backs the group known as Houthis who presently hold Hodeidah.
Officially the British government has approved standard arms licences worth more than £4 billion to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war in Yemen, including advanced jets and munitions.
But the online news organisation Middle East Eye showed in March that the government has also agreed a 75 percent increase in secretive “open licences” to approve additional arms sales, including vital parts for the jets blasting Yemen.
British and US officers have been in the command room for the airstrikes, and last weekend the French newspaper Le Figaro alleged that there are French special forces on the ground in Yemen.
Houthi forces have also claimed they have captured a French military boat.
On Friday of last week Britain and the US blocked a Swedish push for a United Nations (UN) security council statement demanding a ceasefire.