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Clashes erupt in Hodeidah despite truce
January 13, 2019
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HODEIDAH: Clashes erupted between Houthi rebels and government forces in Yemen’s flashpoint port city of Hodeidah on Saturday, dealing a new blow to a fragile truce, a media correspondent reported.

Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day, the correspondent said.

The rebel-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in the Yemeni conflict after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.

But last month the warring parties agreed a ceasefire for Hodeidah during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.

The United Nations has said the truce has largely held since it came into force on Dec.18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of rebel and government forces.

The Houthis control most of Hodeidah while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.

UN aid coordinator Lise Grande visited Hodeidah on Friday and met local officials, the head of Yemen’s National Authority for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jaber Al Razahi, said.

“The reason for the visit of UN humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande to Hodeidah is to see the humanitarian situation... and ensure the arrival of aid through the port,” Eazahi said.

A proposed UN resolution would establish a United Nations political mission to oversee implementation of a cease-fire and the withdrawal of rival forces from Yemen’s key port of Hodeidah.

The British-drafted resolution, obtained on Friday by the media would approve Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ proposal for up to 75 UN monitors to be deployed for an initial period of six months.

The draft resolution says the monitors would oversee the ceasefire in Hodeidah and the surrounding area, demining operations at Hodeidah and the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, and the redeployment of forces. They would also work with Yemen’s government and Houthi Shiite rebels to assure that local forces provide security at the three ports.

Diplomats said the Security Council is expected to vote on the draft resolution next week.

The council voted unanimously Dec.21 to authorise the deployment of UN monitors to observe implementation of the agreement between the government and the Houthis signed in Stockholm on Dec.13 to monitor the ceasefire in Hodeidah and the surrounding area and the pullout of rival forces. But that was only for 30 days, so a new resolution is needed to extend the deployment and establish a more permanent UN operation.

The cease-fire, which went into effect Dec.18, has halted months of heavy fighting in Hodeidah, whose port handles 70 per cent of the food and humanitarian aid imported into Yemen.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that there are currently about 20 monitors in Yemen, stressing that their deployment also hinges on the security situation, which he called “fairly delicate, to say the least.”

While the ceasefire and withdrawal of forces are limited, the Stockholm agreement, if fully implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in Yemen’s four-year conflict.

Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council on Wednesday that progress so far has been “gradual and tentative” and new talks between the warring sides won’t take place until there is “substantive progress.”

Griffiths had said there would be a new round of talks in January but diplomats said he is now looking to February.

Meanwhile, civil defence forces in Yemen’s port city of Aden fought to extinguish a fire at an oil refinery on Friday, sparked hours earlier by an explosion, the cause of which was still unknown, the refinery company said.

There were no reports of casualties.

Separately, Saudi state television reported that the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Iran-allied Houthi group had destroyed a communication and control centre the Houthis used to direct their unmanned aircraft. It did not give further details.

A day earlier the Houthis launched a drone attack on a military parade in Lahaj, a province next to Aden, killing several people.


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