Confrontations and clashes between the Houthi militia fighters and the National Resistance Forces – backed by the Saudi-led coalition – have broken out near the port city of Hodeidah on Friday, according to military sources.
The violence came as United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva have failed to get off the ground, with the Huthi delegation refusing to leave Yemen over alleged fears it will be blocked from returning to the capital Sanaa.
Multiple military sources reported the government alliance attempted Friday to close in on rebel-held Hodeida, a city home to impoverished Yemen’s most valuable port.
The coalition, which launched an offensive on Hodeida in June, advanced some 16 kilometres (10 miles) along the coastal road of the al-Durayhmi district Friday, a military source said.
The road is a key supply route for the rebels, who still hold Hodeida city.
The fate of embattled Hodeida was scheduled for discussion at the Geneva conference, originally due to open Thursday but now on hold until an agreement is reached with the rebels.
The Iran-aligned Huthis have demanded the UN guarantee their delegation’s safe return to Sanaa and allow the evacuation of wounded rebels from the capital to nearby Oman.
The rebels seized control of Sanaa in 2014 along with the Red Sea Hodeida port.
Hodeida’s port serves as an entry point for some 70 percent of imports in a country where eight million people face imminent famine.
The government and the Saudi-led coalition that backs it accuse the Huthis of receiving smuggled weapons through Hodeida and have demanded their unconditional withdrawal from the city.
Government forces backed by the coalition have paused their assault on Hodeida port in what they say is a bid to give UN-led peace efforts a chance, but clashes have erupted sporadically.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict since 2015, when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in the civil conflict between the government and rebels.