|Date: Jun 11, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Clashes intensify near Hudaida|
|ADEN, Yemen: Clashes between troops backed by an Arab-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthis intensified near Yemen’s Hudaida over the weekend as the United Nations tries to negotiate a cease-fire to avert a possible assault on the main port city, military sources said. A military attack or siege on the Houthi-held western city, long a target in the war, could cost up to 250,000 lives, a senior U.N. humanitarian official has warned.|
The Red Sea port is a lifeline for 8 million Yemenis, handling most of the country’s commercial imports and aid supplies.
Heavy fighting erupted Friday and Saturday in Al-Durayhmi, a rural area where Emirati-led troops are now 10 kilometers south of Hudaida, and in Bayt al-Faqih, 35 km from the city, local military sources said. Coalition warplanes and warships launched strikes targeting the Houthis, they added.
A spokesman for the Western-backed alliance of mostly Gulf states did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.N. Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths has been holding talks with the Houthis to hand over control of the port to the United Nations, Yemeni political sources have said.
A broader U.N. peace plan calls on the Houthis to give up their missiles in return for an end to a coalition bombing campaign and a transitional governance deal, according to a draft document and sources.
Previous U.N. efforts have failed to end the more than 3-year-old conflict that pits the Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, against other Yemeni forces backed by the alliance loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi and led by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
A missile launched from Yemen killed three civilians in the south of Saudi Arabia, Saudi state media reported Saturday night, the latest in a series of ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis into the kingdom.
The has coalition said that it would retaliate against anyone who threatens the safety of its citizens and residents. Last month, the group fired a salvo of missiles at the capital Riyadh, saying that it was aiming at economic targets.
Riyadh says the Houthis use Hudaida to smuggle Iranian-made arms into Yemen, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
Separately, Yemeni security officials said gunmen shot dead pro-government army Col. Radwan al-Wassabi, in the southwestern city of Taiz. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief media.
Wassabi, who was backed by the United Arab Emirates, was shot dead and at least four of his guards were wounded late Saturday in central Taiz.
The city is split between government and rebel control.
It was unclear who was behind the shooting.
Tensions have risen in recent months between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the UAE. Clashes have occasionally broken out between the two coalition allies.
The alliance has conducted thousands of airstrikes since it intervened in the war in 2015 and has often hit civilian areas, although it denies ever doing so intentionally.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 3 million and unleashed the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Arab state which also is struggling with a famine and cholera epidemic, according to the United Nations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has pulled 71 staff members out of Yemen after a series of incidents and threats in the country. Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC’s director of operations, said the ICRC’s staff activities have been “blocked, threatened and directly targeted in recent weeks, and we see a vigorous attempt to instrumentalize our organization as a pawn in the conflict.”
The ICRC relocated the majority of its international staff from across Yemen to Djibouti, Marie Claire Feghali of the Red Cross told AP.