Yemen's Houthi rebels kill 10 in attack on food factory in Hodeidah

Six other workers were injured when the rebels shelled the plant on Thursday evening

Houthi troops ride on the back of a police patrol truck after participating in a Houthi gathering in Sanaa, Yemen February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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Ten workers were killed and six others injured when Yemen's Houthi rebels shelled a food processing plant in Hodeidah province on Thursday evening.

Faris Al Hussam, an official at a media centre run by pro-government forces, said the rebels fired five rockets and two mortars at the Thabet Brothers factory complex near Hodeidah city a few minutes before the sunset.

“The shelling aimed to kill as many people as possible because they fired the rockets at a time the workers were still working," Mr Al Hussam said.

"Ten employees at the Thabet Brothers food plant were killed and six co-workers were injured as a result of the Houthi attack," Dawood Kattab, manager of the government's health services in the coastal areas of Hodeidah, told The National.

Dr Kattab said the wounded workers, some of whom suffered serious injuries, were taken to a field hospital in Durayhimi district near Hodeidah, and to hospitals in Khokha and one run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Mokha further south along Yemen's Red Sea coast.

Waleed Al Qudaimi, the Hodeidah deputy governor, said the Houthi shelling caused extensive damage to the plant just as it was resuming operations after a previous attack.

“The rockets left huge devastation in the factory complex, which had just resumed operations after lengthy maintenance work because the plant was repeatedly targeted by the rebels in the last three years,” Mr Al Qudaimi said

“They pounded the factory as it reached full capacity after a year-long stoppage since the last Houthi attack.”

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past a ship unloading grain at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen, January 5, 2019. Picture taken January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
The port in Hodeidah is a vital transit point for the bulk of food and aid shipments entering Yemen. Reuters

The factory processes milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt, as well as fruit juices and some other beverages.

“The Thabet Brothers factory is considered one of the vital service providers for millions of civilians in and out of Hodeidah," Mr Al Qudaimi said, accusing the rebels of targeting the facility to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Hodeidah.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks on civilian targets in the western province in recent weeks.

On Sunday, seven civilians were killed and 10 injured after the rebels bombarded Al Qazah village in Durayhimi with long-range artillery. A medical source said the dead were five women and two children.

On November 25, six civilians, two of them children, were killed when their car drove over a rebel mine on a dirt road between Tuhaiyta district and Khokha city in southern Hodeidah.

The attacks are being carried out despite a UN-brokered deal to stop fighting in the western province. General Abjihit Guha, the head of the UN mission to support the agreement, called for restraint from the warring parties in a statement issued on the day of the attack on Al Qazah.

“Now is the time to hold fire and stop the cycle of the military escalations that will worsen the dire humanitarian situation on the ground,” Gen Guha said.

“I urge both parties to fulfill their obligations and resolve disputes through the appropriate joint mechanism, not the battlefield. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected."

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, issued a similar appeal on Tuesday.

“I am dismayed by the killings of many civilians, including so far, 11 children in Hodeidah, Durayhimi and Taez over the past few days," Mr Griffiths said, referring to another contested province south of Hodeidah.

"The parties have obligations under international law to protect civilians. Even wars have rules.”

Fighting in Hodeidah and other areas of Yemen continues despite UN-led efforts to broker peace between the Houthis and forces allied to the internationally recognised government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition. The rebels also regularly launch missiles and armed drones towards Saudi Arabia, which reported intercepting another explosive-laden Houthi drone on Friday morning.