UN raises alarm over military escalation in al-Hodeidah



Children walk past tents at a displaced persons camp in the Khokha district of Yemen's western province of al-Hodeidah, on May 6th. [Khaled Ziad/AFP]

The UN in Yemen on Thursday (October 8th) raised alarm over an escalation in fighting between the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) and government forces in al-Hodeidah, a vital entry point for aid and food imports.

Conflict has periodically broken out in the province, home to a Red Sea port, even after a truce was brokered in UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden in 2018, but recent months had been relatively calm.

A medical source at al-Hodeidah city's al-Thawra hospital said that since conflict erupted in early October in districts south of the city, five civilians have died and another 30 have been wounded.

No casualty figures for government fighters or Houthi forces were available.

Residents also told AFP that fresh clashes erupted Wednesday evening and continued into the early hours.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said there was deep concern over the fighting and reports of casualties among the civilian population, including women and children.

"This military escalation not only constitutes a violation of the al-Hodeidah ceasefire agreement but it runs against the spirit of the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations that aim to achieve a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic measures and the resumption of the political process," he said in a statement.

Griffiths called on all sides to lay down their weapons and respect the commitments they made under the Stockholm agreement.

Pro-government sources said that the Houthis have since early October been trying to break a siege imposed by loyalist forces on encircled Houthi fighters in the southern district of al-Durayhimi, south of al-Hodeidah city and close to its airport.

Houthi forces inside the district have been deprived of supplies by the siege, prompting the militia's assault, they said.

Before the UN-brokered peace talks, there had been heavy fighting for control of al-Hodeidah's port, which is vital for aid and food imports that are urgently needed in a country suffering a severe humanitarian crisis after five years of war.

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians. Some 3.3 million people have been displaced and the majority of the population relies on aid to survive.

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