Fierce fighting resumes in Yemen's Hodeida after Houthis say they're open to truce


Intense fighting broke out in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida late on Monday, shattering a lull in violence that had raised hopes for a ceasefire between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi insurgents as the United Nations tried to resume peace talks.

Coalition warplanes conducted more than 10 airstrikes on Houthi positions and battles could be heard in the “July 7” district, 4 km (2.5 miles) away from the port, residents said. One resident said a medium-range missile had been fired from the city center toward the district in the suburbs.

The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had last week ordered a halt in its offensive against the Houthi-held Red Sea port city, now a focus of the war, amid pressure from the West to end a conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi group announced early on Monday it was halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their Yemeni allies, in one of its biggest concessions since it quit the southern port city of Aden in 2015.

The Houthi movement also said it was ready for a broader cease-fire if the coalition “wants peace.

Later Yemen information minister Moammar al-Eryani said the Houthis had “fired a missile towards Saudi lands,” adding on his Twitter account the missile failed to reach its target and fell inside Yemen. Houthi authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

It was not immediately clear whether the renewed fighting in Hodeida would derail efforts by U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths to salvage peace talks that collapsed in September when the Houthi delegation failed to show up.

“The fighting is escalating and we can clearly hear machine guns and mortar fire. This is one of the worst nights we have experienced,” said Hodeidah resident Mustafa Abdo.

When asked about the fighting, a pro-coalition Yemeni military source told Reuters late on Monday that a cease-fire in Hodeida would only start after the U.N. Security Council passes a British-drafted resolution on Yemen.

It is not immediately clear when the text, submitted to the Security Council on Monday, could be put to a vote.

Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters he would propose amendments to the draft resolution as Kuwait was unhappy with “many things.” He also said some council members didn’t think it was the right time for a resolution.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters, calls for a halt to fighting in Hodeida, a stop to attacks on populated areas across Yemen and an end to attacks on countries in the region.

It also calls for an unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian goods across the impoverished country, including a large, fast injection of foreign currency into the economy through the Central Bank of Yemen and more aid funding.

Western allies including the United States have called for a cease-fire ahead of peace efforts to end the nearly four-year-old war that has killed more than 10,000 people and caused the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis.

Western countries have provided arms and intelligence to the Arab states in the alliance, but have shown increasing reservations about the war since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized Yemeni government that was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in 2014.

The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Iran.

Griffiths said on Friday that Yemen’s parties have given “firm assurances” they are committed to attending peace talks he hopes to convene in Sweden before the end of the year to agree on a framework for peace under a transitional government.