Tensions continue in Hodeidah days before UN talks resume

Clashes broke out between Houthis and pro-government forces on Thursday

epa07666632 Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition advance during fighting against Houthi rebels on the outskirt of the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, 22 June 2019. According to reports, the Yemeni government troops have advanced to the southeastern outskirts of the Houthi-controlled city of Hodeidah, which is the key lifeline entry point for the Arab country’s most food imports and humanitarian aid. The Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition to support the exiled Yemeni government against the Houthis since in Yemen March 2015.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
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Fierce confrontations between the Houthi rebels and Arab coalition-supported joint forces were renewed on Thursday in the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah city, according to a spokesperson for the joint forces.

The UN mission to Yemen, which is monitoring the withdrawal of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, is due to resume talks with the internationally-recognised Yemeni government this week.

“Clashes broke out followed by intensified confrontations between our forces and the Houthi rebels in swathes of the southern city and in the city centre.

"Eight soldiers from our forces were killed and 18 were injured. Twenty-eight of the Houthi rebels were killed," Col Wathah Al Dubaish told The National.

The Iran-backed rebels intensified attacks over sites controlled by the joint forces around Thabet Brothers factories and the Red Sea mills in Hodeidah. A huge number of fighters from the Houthi militia used different kinds of heavy and light weapons in the attack, Col Al Dubaish said.

He said that the Houthi rebels have “resumed the fight against our forces” in an attempt to thwart the internationally-recognised government’s attempts to coordinate peace talks with the United Nations.

“They [the Houthis] have launched more than three large scale attacks over our sites in the southern and the eastern outskirts in the city this month,” Col Al Dubaish added.

The Houthis attacked sites near where a meeting between the Lt Gen Michael Anker Lollesgaard (head of the United Nations Mission in support of the Hodeidah Agreement) and representatives from the government forces is due to take place within a few days.

“Such escalation is a clear signal that the rebels have no real intention to fully engage in the withdrawal talks, they struggle to thwart the UN efforts to resume the talks,” Col Al Dubaish explained.

Further attacks took place on Thursday in Hodeidah and in Marib province in northern Yemen.

A resident in the populated Kilo 8 district of Hodeidah city said that more than 25 mortar shells had fallen near homes of civilians.

Earlier on Thursday, the Houthis targeted a house in Al Wadi district in Marib province, northern Yemen owned by the governor of Marib province, Al-Sheikh Sultan Al-Arada, a Yemeni journalist with the Yemeni army told The National.

“The rocket caused destruction in the house but no casualties were reported,” Ramzi Mokhtar said.