The UN’s envoy to Yemen called yesterday for pro-government forces and rebels to respect a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, after repeated clashes between the two sides threatened to unravel a hard-won accord hammered out in Sweden last week.
“The special envoy expects the two parties to respect their obligations as per the text and spirit of the Stockholm Agreement and to engage in the immediate implementation of its provisions,” envoy Martin Griffiths tweeted.
He said the UN was working with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels to ensure the accord on Hodeidah reached on Thursday was “implemented timely and properly”. Clashes shook Hodeidah Sunday after air strikes and deadly fighting on the outskirts overnight, residents said.
UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that “much worse” lay in store for the country in 2019 unless its warring parties strike a peace deal and head off a humanitarian crisis.
The two sides exchanged accusations of violating the ceasefire accord that took effect on Friday but which quickly came under pressure.
A resident of the city reached by telephone said that the clashes were “fierce” and the sounds of jets could be heard throughout the night until about
5am (0200 GMT) yesterday.
Another resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also reported ongoing fighting in the city, home to a lifeline port.
“There are sounds of jets and air strikes, but we don’t know what they are targeting,” he told AFP by telephone.
At least 29 fighters, including 22 Houthi rebels and seven pro-government troops, were killed on Saturday night in clashes and air strikes in Hodeida province, a pro-government military source told AFP.
No other sources could confirm the death toll.
The pro-government source added that seven rebels were captured during a Houthi attack on Al-Durayhimi district, which lies about 20 kilometres south of Hodeidah city.
According to the insurgents’ Al-Masirah television yesterday, there were ongoing clashes and air strikes in the city and its outskirts. The truce between Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi rebels was due to be followed by the withdrawal of fighters from Hodeidah within days on both sides.
In comments published Saturday on the rebel-run Saba news agency, the Houthis accused pro-government forces of shelling residential neighbourhoods in Hodeidah city.
Thursday’s ceasefire accord has been seen as the most significant step towards ending the devastating conflict in Yemen, where more than 14mn people are on the brink of famine.
The United States commended yesterday the two sides that took part in the Sweden negotiations for “making progress on key initiatives”, calling for a de-escalation of tensions.
“Moving forward, all must continue to engage, de-escalate tensions, and cease ongoing hostilities,” the US embassy in Riyadh tweeted.
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