Dozens of Yemeni rebels have been killed in battles and airstrikes in Hodeidah, medics said on Sunday, November 4, as pro-government forces advanced in the insurgent-held Red Sea port city.
The bloodshed comes despite growing international pressure to end a years-long conflict that has killed thousands and pushed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine.
Nearly three quarters of the country’s imports flow through Hodeidah, which is controlled by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and under blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Fifty-three Houthi rebels were killed and dozens were injured in ground fighting and air strikes over the past 24 hours, medical sources in Hodeidah, which is a key gateway for humanitarian aid told AFP.
Houthi media reported air strikes in Hodeidah on Sunday but did not give a casualty toll.
Thirteen pro-government troops were killed, medical sources in Aden and Mokha – where the fighters were transported – told AFP.
Military officials said Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes early Sunday to support pro-government forces in a renewed assault which began on Thursday evening. Clashes intensified in the city and centered around its university on Saturday and Sunday morning, a pro-government military official said.
Yemeni government officials said Tuesday that the coalition had sent more than 10,000 additional troops towards the battleground city, and the clashes erupted just hours after the government said Thursday it was ready to restart peace talks with the Houthis.
That offer followed a surprise call by the United States for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes by the coalition.
Washington backs the coalition, which is fighting alongside Yemen’s government against the Houthis, but Saudi Arabia’s regional role has come under scrutiny after the killing in its Istanbul consulate last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
International community ‘shamefully slow to act’ on Yemen
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), appealed for an immediate ceasefire.
“As an international community we have been shamefully slow to act to end the crisis in Yemen,” she said in a statement during a trip to South Korea.
“We have watched the situation deteriorate to the point that Yemen is now on the brink of man-made famine, and facing the worst cholera epidemic in the world in decades,” Jolie added.
“The only way to enable refugees to return home, and to bring down the overall numbers worldwide, is to end conflicts themselves.”
The brutal war on children in #Yemen continues, unabated.
There are 400,000 severely malnourished children in the country.
— UNICEF MENA (@UNICEFmena) November 4, 2018
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday had called for a halt to violence to pull Yemen back from the “precipice.”
The U.N. has called Yemen, long the poorest country in the Arab world, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and warned that 14 million people across the country face imminent famine.
Multiple attempts to find a political solution to the Yemen conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, have failed.
U.N.-backed peace talks between the Houthis and government collapsed in September after the rebels refused to travel to Geneva unless the U.N. guaranteed both their delegation’s safe return to Sanaa and the evacuation of wounded fighters.
After peace talks collapsed, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Hodeidah.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the war in 2015 to bolster Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebels took over the capital Sanaa and drove the government further south to Aden.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10,000 people have since been killed, but some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.
A U.N. panel of experts has accused both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition of acts that could amount to war crimes.
With reporting from AFP