Tuesday, November 20,2018
Hopes of a ceasefire in Yemen have been dashed after fighting resumed in the port city of Hodeidah between the Saudi-UAE coalition and Houthi rebels.
The military alliance – led by Riyadh – conducted more than 10 airstrikes on rebel-held positions overnight, despite having ordered a halt in its offensive last week amid pressure from the West.
On Monday, high-ranking rebel Mohammed Ali al-Houthi suggested his group was receptive to the prospect of an end to the conflict, which has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
He said rebel forces were ready “to freeze and stop all military operations” to achieve “a just and honourable peace”, with at least 149 people killed in Hodeidah over the course of just 24 hours last weekend.
But Yemeni information minister Moammar al-Eryani later claimed that the Houthis had “fired a missile towards Saudi lands”, which he said had fallen short of its target.
The alleged strike, which has not been confirmed or denied by the rebels, was the catalyst for intense combat to resume on Monday night and derail efforts by the UN to salvage peace talks.
Just days ago, special envoy Martin Griffiths told Sky News said he was hopeful a fresh round of negotiations would begin within weeks – providing the lull in fighting in Hodeidah was maintained.
He revealed he had secured an agreement for a delegation of Houthi rebels to attend a meeting in Sweden without fear of being prevented from returning to Yemen by the Saudi-UAE coalition.
Concern over travel had been a factor stopping the Houthis from taking part in talks in Geneva in September, which would have been the first in two years.
“If we find there are particular battles or if there is an increase in activity – for example in Hodeidah – between now and when we meet in Sweden, then we may not get there,” Mr Griffiths admitted.
“Please can everyone hold their breath and get this conflict into a discussion rather than into violence.”
More than 10,000 have been killed during the four-year war and the likes of Britain and the US have shown increased reservations about their support of the Saudis since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The journalist was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month, potentially jeopardising relations between the kingdom and some of its most important allies.
Britain has drafted a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to fighting in Hodeidah, a stop to attacks on populated areas across Yemen and on other countries in the region, and more aid funding.
Saudi Arabia and the coalition it leads first intervened in Yemen in 2015, with the aim of restoring its internationally-recognised government that had been ousted from the capital of Sanaa the year before.