Houthis killed as rebel offensive breaks Hodeidah agreement

Iran-backed rebels launch attack to cut off pro-government forces at Ad Durayhimi and Hays on Yemen’s west coast

epa08931247 Armed militiamen of the Houthi movement ride a vehicle as they patrol at a street in Sana’a, Yemen, 11 January 2021. According to reports, the Houthi movement has condemned the decision of US president Donald Trump’s government to designate the movement as a terrorist organization to hold the movement accountable for its acts in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The US administration also designated as terrorists three leaders of the Houthi movement, including their chief Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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Dozens of rebels were killed as fighting broke out in Yemen’s Hodeidah province on Sunday, with Iran-backed Houthi forces trying to break pro-government lines.

Shooting started despite a December 2018 ceasefire agreement at UN-backed peace talks.

Aseel Al Sakladi, a representative of Al Amalika Forces, told The National  that Houthi fighters attacked positions held by the pro-government Joint Forces from the western edge of Hays, south of Hodeidah, about 5am on Sunday.

Pro-government forces control a sliver of the coast from Mocha to the outskirts of Hodeidah city.

If the Iran-backed rebels cut the line at Hays, they could encircle and secure their hold on the city.

"Joint Forces destroyed three Houthi vehicles and killed dozens of their fighters, among them a  field commander, Mr Al Sakladi said.

The clashes took place a day after 23 Houthis and seven Joint Forces militiamen were killed in fighting near Ad Durayhimi city, 12 kilometres south of Hodeidah, a source from the Joint Forces told The National.

“They launched their offensive early on Saturday morning using heavy weapons including artillery and tanks,” the source said.

He said pro-government lines held.

The fighting around Ad Durayhimi forced residents of villages near the frontlines to flee their homes as mortars hit Wadi Al Roman and Dakhnan to the east of the city.

The port at Hodeidah is a lifeline for food and aid to millions in north Yemen, and the Houthis threatened to destroy the port when the government appeared ready to take the city in a months-long offensive in 2018.

It stopped to allow time for peace talks in Sweden.

While a deal was brokered and both sides have pulled back, the terms of the agreement have not been honoured.

The rebels have not handed over the city and its port to an independent local force and allowed the UN to oversee the site, or fully withdrawn from the province as agreed.

The Houthi offensive started days after the US announced a plan to designate the group as a terrorist organisation.

Houthi fighters were killed and others were injured when their roadside bomb exploded  in Al Dhalea province in southern Yemen on Sunday.

“The explosive device blew up on a group of Houthi fighters while they were preparing it in a mountainous dirt road near to their posts in northern Batar area,” Capt Fuad Jubari of Al Dhalea military region said.

"We heard the explosion and saw Houthi military cars rushing to transfer the injured."