Renewed Clashes in Hodeidah as Peace Talks Continue

Aid ship at Hodeidah (Giles Clark / UN OCHA)

Published Jun 27, 2019 7:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite a U.N.-backed ceasefire agreement, fighting between Houthi rebels and government forces has resumed on the south side of the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen. Pro-government militia leaders told Xinhua that Houthi units had shelled several neighborhoods, damaging homes and destroying part of a hospital. 

Under the terms of an agreement negotiated in Stockholm last December, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were to withdraw from the port, and Saudi- and UAE-backed Yemeni government forces were to pull back from their positions surrounding the city. Houthi security units at the port have transferred control to the Yemeni Coast Guard, but the head of the UN mission in Hodeidah, Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, said last month that considerable work remains to demilitarize the port complex. 

The port is essential to aid agencies' efforts to provide food and medical care for the Yemeni population, as the country's long-running civil war has created shortages of many basic necessities. U.N. aid officials have repeatedly warned that a fight for control of Hodeidah could plunge portions of the country into famine. An estimated 24 million people - about eighty percent of the population - needs some form of assistance, according to Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. 

Progress on orchestrating the combatants' withdrawals from in and around Hodeidah has been slow, and it has been marked by periodic clashes between the two sides. Tensions have risen further after a series of cross-border Houthi attacks on Saudi facilities, including a missile strike on a civilian airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia, which wounded 26 people on June 12. 

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffith and Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen Saleh al-Ahmar met in Riyadh Wednesday to discuss progress on the Stockholm agreement. "I am encouraged by the openness, flexibility and continued commitment of the Government of Yemen to resolve the peace process, based on the results of the national dialogue, the GCC initiative and relevant Security Council resolutions and the resumption of consultations with the parties," Griffith said in a statement.