HODEIDA, YEMEN — Hope was quickly dashed for the residents of Yemen’s Hodeida after a week of peace talks in Sweden initially gave rise to a ceasefire between Houthi forces and the Saudi-led coalition. But instead of peace, the sounds of fierce clashes and coalition fighter jets re-echo throughout the province.
Saudi Arabia has violated the Hodeida ceasefire at least 50 times since Thursday, when the truce was agreed upon — launching 50 airstrikes as the ink on the deal was still drying. Saudi artillery fired more than 300 mortar shells on Hodeida`s residential areas and Saudi mercenaries attempted to breach Hodeida’s western defenses multiple times.
The ceasefire agreement stipulates that an immediate cessation of hostilities should come into effect in Hodeida and its three ports upon the signing of the agreement, followed by a mutual redeployment of forces to agreed-upon locations outside of the city and ports.
On Saturday, overnight clashes broke out on the outskirts of Hodeida, following fresh attempts by Saudi and Emirati troops and their mercenaries to advance into the city under the cover of coalition airstrikes. The coalition claimed that 30 fighters, including 20 Houthis, were killed and seven captured during the attack.
On Sunday Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted residential neighborhoods in the Dreihimi district, 20 km south of Hodeida city, and dropped cluster bombs on farms in the district, killing five civilians and injured scores of others.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Brig. Gen. Yehia Sari, spokesman for the Houthi Armed Forces, said that Saudi mercenaries, supported by heavy barrages of artillery and rockets, had tried to infiltrate Dreihimi from several directions.
No sign of halt to Saudi aggression
Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said that there was “no sign the Saudis were going to stop their aggression against the innocent people of Yemen despite the ceasefire deal.” He called on Yemenis to remain vigilant, especially in Hodeida and Ta’izz, and continue supporting the Yemeni army and popular committees.
The UN has called on Yemen’s warring parties to immediately halt fighting in Hodeida. UN’s Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said that both sides should stick to the agreement, tweeting:
The special envoy expects the two parties to respect their obligations as per the text and spirit of the Stockholm Agreement and to engage in the immediate implementation of its provisions.»
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Sunday that much worse lay in store for Yemen in 2019 unless the peace deal is implemented: «Without peace, we will be facing in 2019 a much worse situation than today.»
Khaled al-Yamani, who led the coalition delegation to the peace talks, said on Sunday that the ceasefire takes effect midnight Monday. The UN-brokered agreement to halt fighting in Yemen’s Hodeida and its surroundings is scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, a United Nations official told AFP on Monday.
The Saudi-led coalition has also escalated its military offensives across other provinces in Yemen, killing more than 10 civilians including women and children, and undercutting any optimism that the week of peace talks in Sweden would bring calm.
The Saudi-led coalition escalated attacks on more than 10 fronts — including in Hajjah, Sadaa, al Beidha, and Nihm, 40 km (25 miles) east of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Fierce battles and bombings are continuing across Yemen and artillery fire and gun battles still rage across the country.
In the Nihm region alone, a residential area in the suburbs of the capital Sana’a, coalition warplanes launched over 40 airstrikes since Friday. The airstrikes were accompanied by intensive artillery and missile fire.
The Houthis have responded to coalition violence with an attack on a military base inside Saudi territory. The media branch of Yemen’s Ansar Allah, the political wing of the Houthis, released footage on Friday showing the moment strategic Saudi military bases were captured deep inside of the Saudi province of Najran, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the attacks.
Although the apparent rationale behind the Saudi-led coalition attending the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden was to compensate for its failure to achieve its objective of overrunning Yemen’s provinces – including Hodeida – and defeating the Houthis, it seems the coalition has fallen back on the military option, before the ink on the peace deal was dry.
Top Photo | This undated photo shows a rescue operation in Yemen following an air strike by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Rawan Shaif | Amnesty International
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.