Aden (AFP) – Ground combat and air raids intensified on Monday around Hodeida, Yemen’s strategic port, but the Saudi-led coalition at war with the rebels ensured it did not seek escalation.
The coalition has been working since 2015 in Yemen to reestablish in Sanaa the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a refugee in Riyadh. The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, remain masters of the capital Sanaa and vast areas of the north and west of this poor country of the Arabian Peninsula.
In the evening, fighting continued but with less intensity, according to military sources.
Earlier in the day, Yemeni pro-government forces claimed that troops engaged on several fronts had attempted to move to the outskirts of the southern city of Hodeida to the north to cut off the main supply route for the Houthis.
They reported intensive coalition air raids on rebel targets, while a coalition source assured that it was not “offensive operations” to take back the port through which nearly three quarter of humanitarian aid entering Yemen.
The fighting is no less deadly.
According to Hodeida’s doctors, the bodies of 74 rebels have been transported to two hospitals in the city in the past 24 hours. And 15 pro-government fighters were killed, according to government medical sources.
Save the Children staff in Hodeida reported about 100 raids over the weekend, according to the aid organization.
“This serious escalation could put tens of thousands of children in the line of fire and further stifle the distribution of food and medicine in a country where we estimate that extreme hunger and disease kill an average of 100 children a day,” she warned.
– “Precipice” –
Since last Thursday, fighting and air raids have been reported in the region of Hodeida, where pro-government forces have sent important reinforcements.
These are only deployments to “protect our troops and expand security perimeters in certain areas,” said a coalition source, of which Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the pillars.
She said, on condition of anonymity, that the coalition “strongly supports” the efforts of the UN to restart the peace negotiations.
On Friday, UN boss Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate” end to the violence to prevent Yemen, where half of the population is in pre-famine, from falling into a “precipice”.
UN mediator Martin Griffiths has urged the warring parties to return to the negotiating table with a view to finding a political solution in this country, the scene of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world according to the United Nations.
“The coalition is committed to bringing down hostilities in Yemen,” the coalition source said, adding, “if the Houthis do not show up for peace talks, it could lead to a resumption of the offensive.” on Hodeida “.
In the rebel camp, a senior political official, Mohammad Ali al-Houthi, called for “resistance” by saying that “escalation is proof of the imposture of the United States.”
– MBS at the bedside of the soldiers –
On October 30, while Saudi Arabia was on the defensive after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, US Foreign Affairs Minister Mike Pompeo and Defense Minister Jim Mattis called for a ceasefire. fire in Yemen and the opening of negotiations within 30 days.
But according to the analysis center Soufan, the administration of Donald Trump, an ally of Ryad, makes a lot of “noise” under the pressure of the Congress and the “concrete actions” are delayed.
London has called on its partners in the UN Security Council to act quickly to promote a political solution in Yemen, a country called “hell on earth” for children by Unicef.
The war in Yemen killed some 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But humanitarian officials believe that the actual toll of the victims is much higher.
In Saudi Arabia, the official SPA agency reported the death last week of six Saudi soldiers “near the southern border”, without specifying the exact circumstances or location of their deaths. The south of Saudi Arabia is bordering Yemen.
According to SPA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmane, nicknamed MBS, visited soldiers hospitalized in Riyadh on Monday. Photos provided by SPA show Prince Mohammed, whose image was tarnished by the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, taking selfies with soldiers and hugging them.