Fighting between Saudi Arabian-led coalition forces and Yemen’s Shiite rebels flared up again around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida despite UN calls for a ceasefire, Yemeni officials and witnesses said on Tuesday.
The escalation, which followed a lull that had been in place since earlier this month, began late on Monday with coalition airstrikes hitting the rebels, known as Houthis, in and around Hodeida.
The renewed fighting undermines the latest UN efforts to end the three-year war. The US-backed, Saudi Arabian-led coalition has been battling the rebels since March 2015 to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government to power. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed much of the country to the brink of starvation.
Aid group Save the Children said it believes that 85,000 children under age 5 may have died of severe acute malnutrition since Yemen’s civil war began in earnest with the Saudi Arabian-led intervention.
“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable,” Tamer Kirolos of the group said in a statement. “Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop.”
In Hodeida on Tuesday, fighting was also underway in Khamsin Street in the city center and in al-Saleh District, officials and witnesses told reporters.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to talk to reporters; the witnesses did so out of fear for their safety.
Yemeni Minister of Information Moammer al-Iryani said the Houthis shelled the city center and neighborhoods held by government forces.
The Houthi-run al-Masirah television channel said that the rebels attacked government forces on a main road linking the capital, Sana’a, and Hodeida. Government forces had captured the road in September.
Earlier, the rebels said they had fired a ballistic missile the previous night into Saudi Arabia in response to an attempted border incursion and another airstrike, and that they reserved the right to respond to attacks. The missile came hours after the rebels said they would halt all rocket fire into Saudi Arabia for the sake of peace efforts.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also on Tuesday pledged US$500 million in aid to assist millions of Yemenis at risk of starvation.
The announcement came just days after UN World Food Program head David Beasley visited Yemen and told the UN Security Council that as many as 12 million of the 28 million Yemenis “are just one step away from famine.”
International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband on Tuesday said a UN draft resolution urging the warring parties to relaunch peace talks is “a vital diplomatic step and the best hope” toward a ceasefire and although only focused on Hodeida, “represents a critical development following the breakthrough call by the US government for a ceasefire in Yemen.”
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