Houthi rebels intensify Hodeidah attacks, prompting fears of ceasefire collapse

Iran-backed rebels have increased attacks in Yemen after high-ranking commander was killed on Saturday

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels chant slogans during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters into battlefronts to fight pro-government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen. Moroccan government officials said Thursday Feb. 7, 2019 that Morocco has stopped taking part in military action with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s war, and has recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
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The Houthi militia launched a large attack in Yemen on Sunday, targeting sites controlled by the joint forces in Hodeidah as a new escalation threatens the UN peace efforts in the port city.

The Houthis had attacked sites controlled by Al Amalikah Brigades in Kilo 16, east of the city, Arab Coalition spokesman Col Wathah Al Dubaish told The National on Sunday.

The rebels also attacked Al Amalikah divisions in Al Fazah, in the south of Hodeidah, pushing towards the coast to try to cut the main route linking the southern districts.

“The Houthi rebels have been escalating all over the western coast in Hodeidah," Col Al Dubaish said.

"They pushed huge forces to Al Jabaliya area, attacking our sites with all kinds of weapons."

Confrontations in Al Jabaliya continued for more than 24 hours as the Houthis intensified their attacks after one of their high-ranking commanders was killed in clashes on Saturday.

“The top officer killed was Mohammed Ali Al Sharif,” Col Al Dubaish said.

“He is one of the top field commanders in Hodeidah of those highly trained in Iran and has close ties with the Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi.”

He said the Houthi escalation was “a hazardous threat” that could endanger the UN-backed ceasefire in the city.

“The joint forces won’t keep watching the Houthis wreaking havoc in Hodeidah,” Col Al Dubaish said.

“We have shown restraint over thousands of violations committed by them since the halt began in December 2018 and the UN kept watching silently. It is enough.”

In Al Dhalea province in southern Yemen, the Southern Joint Forces thwarted a large-scale attack on Sunday.

The rebels hit positions under the control of the joint forces in the mountainous Hijar area and Sameh, in the north-east of Dhalea, forces spokesman Capt Majed Al Shouaibi told The National.