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Deadly fighting erupts in Yemen’s Hodeida

By AFP - Dec 02,2018 - Last updated at Dec 02,2018

This photo taken on November 25 shows Yemeni fishermen waiting along the shore in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. The fishing harbour lies just 1 kilometre from the frontlines of a fierce pro-government offensive to reseize it from Houthi rebels who have held it since 2014 (AFP photo)

DUBAI — Renewed violence in Yemen’s vital port city of Hodeida has left 10 fighters dead, despite a UN push for peace talks, an official and medical sources told AFP on Saturday.

An official with pro-government forces said fighting erupted in the east and south of the Red Sea city on Friday, while Houthi rebels on their television channel referred to an exchange of tank fire.

Intermittent clashes continued on Saturday, Hodeida residents told AFP by phone.

The violence follows a visit to the city last month by UN envoy Martin Griffiths to press for talks aimed at ending the war which has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

Hodeida port is held by the Houthis and serves as the entry point for nearly all of the country’s imports and humanitarian aid.

A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally-recognised government launched an assault to take Hodeida in June, but its forces had largely suspended the offensive amid intense diplomatic efforts.

Sporadic clashes have however continued since a fragile truce began on November 13.

Medical sources on Saturday confirmed the bodies of eight rebels had been transferred to hospitals.

Two fighters with pro-government forces were also killed, according to a medical source at a hospital in an area held by the loyalists.

In a further sign of renewed tensions, Saudi Arabia said the Houthis launched a “military projectile” which hit a house in the kingdom. 

Two people were injured in the strike in Samtah governorate, Saudi state news agency SPA reported. It is the first confirmation by Riyadh of such a rocket attack since September.

The escalation comes just days ahead of proposed peace talks hosted by Sweden, which have been backed by both the coalition and rebels.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, however, has played down the early December schedule and said he hoped talks would start “this year”.

“But, as you know, there have been some setbacks,” he said on Thursday.

Riyadh has expressed concern over Houthi rocket attacks on Saudi territory, while the rebels are seeking assurances their delegation will be able to safely leave and return to Yemen.

Previous talks planned for September in Geneva failed to get underway as the Houthi delegation never left the Yemeni capital Sanaa, arguing that the United Nations could not guarantee their safe return.

Rebel delegates were left stranded in Oman for three months in 2016, after negotiations hosted by Kuwait collapsed after 108 days.

If conditions are met, all sides have in principle agreed to attend the talks in Sweden, including the government of Yemen’s internationally-recognised president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

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