Hodeidah push paused as coalition bombards Houthis

Policemen patrol the streets of the southern city of Taez, Tuesday. A large portion of Yemen's third city Taez is held by pro-government fighters, but the entrances to the city are controlled by Houthi rebels. — AFP

KHOKHA, Yemen — Yemeni government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombarded rebel positions outside Hodeidah after pausing their push into the strategic Red Sea port city, government sources said on Tuesday.

Hospital sources said 11 civilians and 43 rebel fighters had been killed on Sunday and Monday as the rebels came under fire south of Hodeidah and in some cases retaliated.

The rebels have held Hodeidah since 2014 but in a major offensive last month government forces backed by the United Arab Emirates and other coalition troops captured the disused airport on its southern outskirts — a major stepping stone for any drive into the city.

On Saturday, the government and the UAE announced a pause in their advance.

This week's deadly bombardment targeted rebel positions in Tohayta, Beit Al-Faqiya and Zabid, to the south of Hodeidah, the government military sources said.

Three civilians were killed in their car in a coalition airstrike against rebel military vehicles on a road near Zabid, residents said.

Eight civilians, including four children, were killed by rocket fire in Tohayta, witnesses said. Residents blamed the rebels.

In both incidents, hospital sources confirmed receiving the bodies.

Hodeidah is the latest battlefront in a war that has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2015, most of them civilians, and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

Desperately needed relief supplies and three-quarters of Yemen's commercial imports pass through the city's port.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Sunday in a new bid to reach a deal to avert an all-out battle fo Hodeidah that could cause major casualties in the city's streets and damage to its docks.

Griffiths has said a proposal to grant the UN a major role in managing the port is under study.

The government and the UAE have demanded the rebels withdraw unconditionally from the whole city, not just the port, something the rebels have rejected.

The UAE says the rebels' departure from Hodeidah, whether voluntary or by force, is necessary to stop them smuggling in weapons.

Meanwhile, residents of Hodeidah called on Griffiths to visit their city and see first-hand the violations committed by the Houthi militia in the strategic port city.

They also called on the UN and Griffiths to intervene to end their suffering and accused the UN of ignoring what people in Hodeidah are going through as they’re being killed, detained and forcibly disappeared at the hands of the Houthis. 
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it resumed its work in Yemen and resumed providing humanitarian aid in the fields of healthcare and surgery, adding that its teams provided relief and shelter to more than 7,000 people who fled Hodeidah and Al-Houk and Al-Marawi'ah districts in the past two weeks.
The ICRC said in the beginning of June that it pulled 71 of its staff from Yemen amid rising security threats. — Agencies