84 dead in fighting in Yemen’s Hodeida after U.N.-brokered peace talks fail

AFP-JIJI

Clashes and airstrikes have left 84 people dead around Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Hodeida since the collapse of U.N.-brokered peace talks, hospital sources said Sunday.

The sources in Hodeida province, controlled by Houthi rebels, said 11 soldiers and 73 insurgents had been killed since the talks were abandoned on Saturday.

Dozens of rebels and at least 17 soldiers had been wounded.

The pro-government coalition, which includes Saudi and UAE air forces, has been pushing to close in on Hodeida, the entry point for some 70 percent of Yemen’s imports including food and aid, since June.

The coalition on Sunday was positioned to attempt to seize the main road linking Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, to the port city, a military official told AFP.

The road is a key supply route for the Houthis.

In July, the coalition announced a temporary cease-fire in Hodeida to give a chance to U.N.-brokered peace talks.

But U.N. attempts to hold peace talks between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Houthis, linked to Saudi Arabia’s archrival Iran, were abandoned on Saturday, sparking fears of an escalation in the conflict.

The rebels refused to leave Yemen for Geneva, saying the UN had not met their demands — including a plane to transport their wounded to nearby Oman and a guarantee their delegation would be allowed to return to Sanaa.

In 2014, the Houthis seized control of a string of Red Sea ports and the capital, driving the government out of Sanaa and the president into exile.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict to bolster President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, recognized by the U.N. as Yemen’s president. They now control Yemen’s airspace.

Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine.