Yemen rebels launch attack in Hodeidah days before planned withdrawal

National Resistance repels offensive on area near a hospital in the east of the port city

Police trooper stands guard on a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad
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Yemen's Houthi rebels launched a large-scale attack on pro-government forces around Hodeidah on Wednesday night, just a day after the UN special envoy confirmed that all sides had agreed to implement a long-delayed ceasefire plan for the port city.

Heavy fighting broke out after the rebels attacked positions held by National Resistance fighters near the 22 May Hospital in the east of the port city, a commander told The National.

“The Houthis launched a big attack targeting sites controlled by our fighters in Al Khamseen street, using heavy weapons, artillery, mortars, and RPGs," said the commander, who asked not to be named.

"The attack was foiled; our forces deployed in the area took rapid action to push the Houthi fighters back.”

A National Resistance source said there were no casualties among its fighters, but a Hodeidah resident said a man and two women from a family living near the hospital were injured when a mortar shell exploded in the yard of their home.

“The family had just returned from the displacement camp in Al Khokha this week. Unfortunately they had to leave their house again as three of them were injured amid the clashes last night," the resident said.

The rebel attack violates a ceasefire deal in Hodeidah that was meant to ensure the flow of badly needed humanitarian through its ports. The internationally-recognised government and allied Saudi-led military coalition have reported hundreds of rebel violations since the ceasefire went into effect on December 18.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Tuesday that a withdrawal of all forces from the ports and “critical parts of the city associated with humanitarian facilities” will take place next week, nearly two months later than scheduled.

The government and coalition accuse the Houthis of undermining efforts to end Yemen's four-year civil war by stalling over the Hodeidah ceasefire and other agreements reached at UN-led talks in Sweden in December.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have been fighting Hajoor tribesmen in Hajjah province, north of Hodeidah, for more than two weeks.

Coalition air strikes on Wednesday killed dozens of rebels in the mountainous Kushar district where the clashes have been taking place, a source in the local resistance forces said.

"Three of the strikes targeted six Houthi vehicles carrying weapons, supplies and fighters in Al Hawj village,” the source said.