Houthis launch skirmishes in Hodeidah days after agreeing de-escalation at UN meeting

Iran-backed rebels agreed this week to work towards implementing a UN-brokered deal to avoid fighting in the city

epa07708686 A member of Yemeni government forces fires a heavy machine gun during fighting against Houthi rebels on the outskirt of the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, 10 July 2019. According to reports, a Yemeni demining unit has managed to clear more than 3500 landmines and explosives allegedly planted by the Houthi rebels in the port city of Hodeidah over the past six months.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
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The Houthi militia has launched a skirmish against pro-government forces in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah in a move described as a violation of the terms of a de-escalation agreement reaffirmed this week.

The head of the Redeployment and Coordination Committee, Lt Gen Michael Lollesgaard, mediated a discussion between representatives of the government and the rebels on-board a UN ship in international waters between Hodeidah and Makah earlier this week.

The two sides agreed to work towards implementing troop withdrawals from the city as laid out in December’s UN-brokered peace talks.

But on Thursday, a military official in the pro-government Joint Forces in Hodeidah told The National that Houthi forces launched a push against their positions around Kilo-16, a key supply route between the city and the rebel-held capital of Sanaa.

“The Houthi rebels tried to advance in the outskirts of Kilo 16 through an intensified attack using different types of weapons at 3 am on Thursday,” the official said. “The attack aimed to take positions controlled by our forces in Kilo 16 but was thwarted by our forces who clashed with the Houthi rebels as they attempted to advance, killing a number of them”.

On Wednesday, the Houthi militia shelled a residential area near Kilo 7, in the southeast the port city of Hodeidah, causing largescale fire damage in City Max Mall due to Houthi projectiles", Col Wathah Al Dubaish, the spokesperson of the joint forces in Hodeidah, told The National.

“In Haiys district south of Hodeidah, three civilians were killed due to Houthi shelling that targeted a populated neighbourhood in the northern area of Haiys city. Meanwhile, three soldiers from Al Amalikah forces were killed on Wednesday during Houthi shelling targeted their positions in Al Jabaliya, south of Hodeidah,” col Al Dubaish said.

On the last peace talks supervised by the UN, the spokesperson of the Joint Forces in Hodeidah, col Al Dubaish said that they were ready to coordinate with the UN to facilitate the work of the international monitors who are supposed to arrive in the port city of Hodeidah in the coming days.

“We are ready to offer all the help needed by the UN monitoring team and we hope the Houthi rebels do the same,” Col Al Dubaish said, adding that he believes the rebels have not issued the paperwork needed by the monitors to enter rebels held areas of the city.

Separately, in the province of Al Dhalea in southern Yemen, the Houthi militia shelled residential villages in the Hajer area on Wednesday night," residents told The National.

Shamsan Mohammed, 6, was left severely wounded after being shot in the neck during clashes around the Al Mashareeh village, a resident said.

The area of Al Dhalea east of Taiz and north of Aden has been rocked with fighting in recent months as Houthi rebels pushing south from Sanaa have tried to split the government-controlled territory in two. If they are able to take the area, it would allow them to launch attacks on Aden and try to several supply lines along the coast from Mocha towards Hodiedah.

However, coalition air forces and significant numbers of pro-government ground troops are fighting to push back the rebels and secure the region.