The UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen has warned that 30,000 civilians are trapped in the Red Sea port city of Al-Mokha, the scene of deadly fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels.
"An estimated 20,000-30,000 people, almost one third of the population, are trapped in the town and require immediate protection and relief assistance," Jamie McGoldrick said in a statement late Tuesday.
He said repeated airstrikes, shelling and sniper attacks in and around the strategic port city have killed and injured scores of civilians and have grounded most services to a halt.
"Tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes, some having to pass through mined roads to reach safety in neighboring areas," the UN official said.
"Many of the displaced families were already victims of the conflict, with lost livelihoods and previous displacement. Now they are in desperate need of protection," McGoldrick added.
Al-Mokha has been witnessing fierce battles for more than a week after government forces advanced into the city.
While Houthi rebels control a number of neighborhoods in Al-Mokha, the city's entrances are controlled by government forces, who accuse Houthis of taking civilians as human shields.
McGoldrick called on the warring rivals to halt fighting to allow aid agencies to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians trapped in the city.
"Under international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict have an obligation to protect civilians, facilitate their safe passage and avoid damaging civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water stations that are critical to sustaining life," he said.
"I also continue to urge all the parties to return to the negotiation table. A sustained peace is the only solution that will help end the suffering in Yemen," McGoldrick said.
Yemen fell into civil war in 2014 after Houthi rebels overran capital Sanaa and other parts of Yemen, forcing members of the country's internationally-recognized government to temporarily flee to Saudi Arabia.
The following year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a major air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen's Saudi-backed government.
By Zakaria al-Kamali
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi