Yemen's Houthi rebels hold rallies against Arab coalition

Iran-backed rebels are preparing for a renewed battle in Hodeidah despite truce, residents say

TOPSHOT - Supporters of Yemen's Huthi rebels attend a rally marking the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition's intervention in Yemen, in the capital Sanaa on March 26, 2019. A Saudi-led military coalition entered Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of restoring its "legitimate" government to power after the Huthis and their allies took over Sanaa. / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAIS
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Yemen's Houthi rebels attended rallies across the country on Tuesday, marking the fourth anniversary of the Arab Coalition's intervention in the country.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other allies have been embroiled in a four-year conflict after the Iran-backed Houthis removed the internationally recognised government.

Buses arrived in the port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday morning carrying dozens of rebel members from the provinces of Hajja, Mahweet, and Ammran, Hodeidah residents said.

"Pro-rebel fighters have been gathering in schools and mosques around the city," one resident told The National.

"They were brought from northern provinces to take part in the protests. And they will not return home. They are preparing for a new battle."

A ceasefire in the port city was agreed to by the rebels and Yemen’s government during UN-led peace talks in Sweden last December.

But the Houthis' refusal to implement the deal has dashed hopes of an early political settlement, with rebel shelling reported in the city’s eastern district on Monday.

The rebels have continually breached the agreement, military sources say

“The Houthis kept targeting sites controlled by the joint forces in the cities of Al Saleh and Al Duraimi in eastern Hodeidah using artillery and mortars,” a military official said.

“We are positive that the rebels do not want peace as they are continuously targeting our military sites and the UN knows this."

The UN is struggling to implement a troop withdrawal from the port, as part of confidence-building measures to clear the way for a peace settlement after four years of war.

The withdrawal of troops would free up access to Red Sea Mills, which hold about 50,000 tonnes of World Food Programme  grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people. Under the deal, humanitarian corridors would also be reopened.

The programme on Tuesday expressed great concern about the clashes and called for humanitarian access to the districts.

“WFP needs free and unhindered access to these vulnerable populations if we are to prevent the food security situation deteriorating,” said Herve Verhoosel, the programme's spokesman.

Security is necessary to ensure proper humanitarian support can be provided by the programme and other UN agencies, Mr Verhoosel said.

Twenty million Yemenis, or about 70 per cent of the population, have no food security, in a 13 per cent increase from last year. Nearly 10 million of them are a step away from famine, the programme says.