Houthis refuse to withdraw from Yemen's Hodeidah

Rebel chief says he is not against the UN having 'a role of supervision' in key port city but he will not give it up completely

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017, file photo, a tribesman loyal to the Houthi rebels, right, chants slogans during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters into battlefronts to fight pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities, in Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen's yearslong war between Shiite rebels and a Saudi-led coalition backing its exiled government has escalated with an assault on the insurgent-held port city of Hodeida. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

The Houthi rebels in Yemen refuse to withdraw completely from the key port city of Hodeidah, said the rebel chief.

Abdel Malek Al Houthi said he was not against the UN having "a role of supervision" in Hodeidah if the pro-government forces — backed by an Arab coalition — stop their offensive, French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

"We told the UN envoy, Martin Griffiths, that we are not rejecting the role of supervision and logistics that the UN wants to hold in the port, but on the condition that the aggression against Hodeidah stops," Al Houthi said in an interview published online on Tuesday.

The Saudi-led coalition, of which the UAE plays a key part, suspended an offensive on the rebel-held Hodeidah to support mediation efforts led by Mr Griffiths.

The alliance intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to help restore its power and push back the rebels after they took control of the capital Sanaa. It has helped the government gain control of large areas of southern Yemen, including the port city of Aden, the government’s de facto capital.

Pro-government forces and the coalition say the Iran-backed group must withdraw completely and unconditionally from Hodeidah, while the rebels have so far only agreed to shared control of the port city.

The Houthis, who have been in control of Hodeidah since 2014, have been smuggling weapons — including ballistic missiles that have targeted Saudi Arabia — provided by Tehran via the city’s port.

The conflict has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with more than 22 million people — about three-quarters of the population — in need of aid.

The offensive on Hodeidah, the country's main entry point for food and aid, had raised fears that shipments would be disrupted but the coalition has outlined plans to ensure the continued delivery of assistance to civilians.


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Meanwhile, the Emirates Red Crescent continues to provide people in Yemen with food and aid.

On Wednesday, the Emirates news agency, Wam, reported that hundreds of food baskets were distributed to civilians in the Meifaa Directorate as well as a number of villages across the Dhala governorate.

This comes as part of the UAE’s efforts to help the citizens of Yemen and alleviate their pain and suffering, said Sultan Al Nuaimi, ERC representative in Shabwa.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday launched an offensive against rebels hidden in pockets in Al Tuhayta and Hays and along the route between Al Tuhayta and Zabayed in the south of Hodeidah province.

"The Al Amalikah brigades seized a large quantity of heavy and medium-sized weapons and killed a number of Houthis who were trying to enter the city of Al Tuhayta," Aseel Al Sakladi, spokesman of the Al Amalikah brigades, told The National.

He added that at least 10 civilians were injured by landmines planted by the rebels.

In the district of Shada in rebel-held Saada province in northern Yemen, the army — backed by the Arab coalition — recaptured the mountains of Kaeb Al Gaber and the village of Al Mahasimah, reported the military-run 26 September news site.

“These are the first areas to be liberated in the Shada district. Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed in fierce clashes and dozens of their military vehicles were destroyed,” said the report.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.