Yemen ceasefire tatters | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 17, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:01 AM, December 17, 2018

Yemen ceasefire tatters

Despite success at UN talks, Hodeida sees return of air strikes, clashes

Clashes shook Yemen's flashpoint city of Hodeida yesterday after air strikes and deadly fighting on the outskirts overnight, residents said, despite a UN-brokered ceasefire between pro-government forces and rebels.

The warring parties exchanged accusations of violating the ceasefire accord that took effect on Friday but which quickly came under pressure.

A resident of the city reached by telephone said that the clashes were "fierce" and the sounds of jets could be heard throughout the night until about 5:00am (0200 GMT) yesterday.

Another resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also reported ongoing fighting in the city, home to a vital Red Sea port.

At least 29 fighters, including 22 Huthi rebels and seven pro-government troops, were killed on Saturday night in clashes and air strikes in Hodeida province, a pro-government military source told AFP.

No other sources could confirm the death toll.

The pro-government source added that seven rebels were captured during a Huthi attack on Al-Durayhimi district, which lies about 20 kilometres south of Hodeida city.

According to the insurgents' Al-Masirah television on Sunday, there were ongoing clashes and air strikes in the city and its outskirts.

The fighting comes days after a UN-backed ceasefire came into effect, part of a hard-won accord struck in Sweden between the two sides.

The truce between Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Huthi rebels was due to be followed by the withdrawal of fighters from Hodeida within days on both sides.

In comments published Saturday on the rebel-run Saba news agency, the Huthis accused pro-government forces of shelling residential neighbourhoods in Hodeida city.

Thursday's ceasefire accord has been seen as the most significant step towards ending the devastating conflict in Yemen, where more than 14 million people are on the brink of famine.

A prisoner swap involving some 15,000 detainees is planned and a "mutual understanding" has been reached to facilitate aid deliveries to Yemen's third city Taiz -- under control of loyalists but besieged by rebels. The two sides also agreed to meet again in late January for more talks to define the framework for negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths called for the urgent creation of a strong monitoring mechanism in Yemen. Diplomats said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres may propose a surveillance mechanism comprising 30 to 40 observers.

The conflict has since killed nearly 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. But some rights groups believe the actual toll to be far higher.

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