Houthi militants in Yemen shell World Food Program’s Hodeidah grain store

The WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict in Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to enforce a ceasefire and troop withdrawal. (AFP/File Photo Feb 2019)
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Updated 31 December 2019

Houthi militants in Yemen shell World Food Program’s Hodeidah grain store

  • WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict
  • No comment from Houthi media

DUBAI: Houthi artillery fire has damaged a mill on the frontline near the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, forcing the World Food Programme to suspended the milling of grain intended for food aid to a starving population, the agency said on Monday.
Yemen’s government’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, also said the Houthi militia had carried out the shelling.
There was no comment from Houthi media.
The WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict in Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to enforce a ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreed a year ago at Stockholm peace talks.
“The milling of WFP wheat at the Red Sea Mills near Hodeidah has been temporarily halted after the mills were hit by artillery fire on Thursday 26 December,” a WFP spokesperson said.
The Red Sea Mills lie on a frontline between forces loyal to the President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognized government and the Iranian-backed Houthi forces.

The war has severely hit food supplies in Yemen and millions of people are at risk of starvation in what aid agencies describe as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The stores were off limits for around six months and were at risk of rotting until the WFP negotiated access in late February and began cleaning and milling what had been enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
So far just over 2,500 tons has been milled into flour and dispatched, the spokesperson said.

Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting intervention in 2015 by an Arab military coalition in a bid to restore his government.
A statement by a mill official carried by the media office of the Giants Brigade, part of Yemeni government forces, said the shelling put a hole in a grain silo, exposing it to the elements.
The UN has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A year on from the Stockholm deal, UN-mediated talks between warring parties in the Hodeidah have so far failed to achieve a full troop withdrawal and cease-fire.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.