Houthi fighters and Saudi-backed pro-government forces battled in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday, breaching a ceasefire and potentially complicating a troop withdrawal agreement intended to pave the way for wider peace talks.
Hodeidah port, which has been under Houthi control, is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis threatened by starvation because of the war, as it is the main entry point for food imports and aid.
But both sides reported renewed clashes on Wednesday, a day after the Iran-aligned Houthi movement claimed responsibility for a drone attack that Saudi Arabia said had hit two of its oil pumping stations.
The Saudi-led military coalition will “retaliate hard” for any attacks by the Houthis on coalition targets but remains committed to the Hodeidah peace deal, said a senior official from the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the coalition.
“Despite the Houthi action we are there to support the (U.N.) process, we are there to make sure that the Houthi pullout of Hodeidah is real and that the U.N. can monitor it,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai. “This is our best opportunity.”
Under the ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal, coalition forces are also expected to leave some areas on the outskirts of Hodeidah. Gargash would not comment on when pro-government forces would withdraw.
Houthi-run media said government forces hit various parts of Hodeidah, including the airport, with heavy and medium weapons.
The coalition-backed forces said in a report that Houthi fighters tried to infiltrate Hodeidah and the al-Duraihmi area to its south but pro-government troops foiled them.