Coalition urges swift UN deployment to save al-Hodeidah truce

A hard-won ceasefire in Yemen's al-Hodeidah will collapse if Houthi (Ansarallah) violations persist and the UN does not intervene, the Arab coalition backing the government warned Wednesday (December 19th).

Underscoring still-simmering tensions, the coalition said it launched an airstrike at the airport in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, destroying a drone that was preparing to take off, AFP reported.

It was the first air raid that the alliance has confirmed carrying out at the airport since peace talks last week in Sweden that resulted in the al-Hodeidah ceasefire accord.

A breakdown of the truce would risk a renewed coalition offensive and a halt to humanitarian operations at the city's vital Red Sea port.

UN observers are due in Yemen to head up monitoring teams made up of government and Houthi representatives tasked with overseeing the implementation of the UN-brokered ceasefire that took effect on Tuesday.

The UN Chair of the Redeployment Co-ordination Committee will convene its first meeting by videoconference from New York on Wednesday before heading to Yemen "later this week", UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Al-Hodeidah residents reached by telephone said there was complete calm in the port city on Wednesday morning following intermittent gunfire during the night.

But the coalition complained of repeated breaches by the Iran-backed Houthis since the truce went into effect.

"A total of 21 violations since ceasefire commencement have come to our notice," a coalition source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Houthis, in turn, accused pro-government forces of violating the truce.

Saba news agency said loyalist forces targeted several areas of the city and its surrounding province overnight.

A UN official, who requested anonymity, said the truce "was holding despite reports of skirmishes".

The two sides have agreed to meet again in late January for more talks to define the framework for negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement.

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