Just three days after a ceasefire agreement was reached, clashes continued Sunday in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition.
Both sides blamed the other for the clashes in statements made to CNN.
The Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV said the Saudi-led coalition conducted 7 airstrikes and shelled the province more than 50 times on Sunday. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the coalition conducted 12 airstrikes in Hodeidah on Saturday, according to Houthi-run Saba news agency.
Moammar Al-Eryani, the minister of information for the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government, blamed the Houthi rebels for launching intermittent attacks, saying pro-government forces were only defending their positions in Hodeidah.
Hamid Assem, a member of the Houthi negotiation delegation, told CNN the Saudi-led coalition is still trying to capture the rebel-held port city but the rebels are fending them off.
Both Assem and Al-Eryani were optimistic that the violence could subside when the UN deploys monitors to the ports in Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa in accordance with the ceasefire agreement.
The December 13 agreement, signed in Stockholm following a round of UN-sponsored talks, stipulated an immediate ceasefire in the governorate of Hodeidah, mutual withdrawal of military manifestations from the city, redeployment of local forces and deployment of UN monitors for the ports.
In response to the reports of clashes, the Office of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted that the Special Envoy “expects the parties to respect their obligations to the text and in the spirit of the Stockholm Agreement.”
The tweet continues, saying that the Special Envoy expects both sides “to engage in the instant implementation of the terms of the provisions” in the agreement.
Talks began in Stockholm on December 6 and have been hailed as a step towards peace in the region. The warring sides agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah on Thursday and for “the port to be managed and monitored with UN support, which will enable the import of vital provisions to the country,” according to the Government Offices of Sweden website.
The war in Yemen has devastated the country and provoked extreme starvation, most notably among the country’s children. Some 85,000 children under the age of five may have died there since 2015, according to Save the Children, the international childrens’ relief organization.