Sporadic clashes have broken out in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels, just hours before a United Nations-led team tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in the strategic port city is expected to meet.
An AFP news agency correspondent reported hearing the sound of heavy artillery and the exchange of gunfire to the east of the city, underscoring the fragility of the truce that began on December 18.
An official related to the Saudi-UAE coalition told AFP on the condition of anonymity that 10 pro-government soldiers had been killed since the ceasefire went into force and accused the Houthis of 183 violations.
“The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, that the Houthis are clearly looking to provoke a response from the coalition and no one is holding them accountable,” he told AFP.
The rebels, in turn, said on the same day that they had recorded at least 31 violations in the past 24 hours by pro-government troops, according to the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.
The ceasefire in the rebel-held port city, vital for millions at risk of starvation, is part of a peace push seen as the best chance yet of ending four years of devastating conflict.
The coalition official warned of a renewed offensive on Hodeidah if violations of the ceasefire persist.
“We look forward to supporting Cammaert in his efforts… we genuinely hope he succeeds, but if not, we reserve the right to recommence an offensive to liberate the city,” said the official.
Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, with experience in Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is heading a joint committee comprising government officials and Houthi rebels to oversee the truce, and will chair its first face-to-face meeting on Wednesday, according to the UN.
The meeting “is taking place as planned with all members attending”, a UN official who did not want to be named told AFP, without disclosing the exact location.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has described the meeting as “one of the priorities” of Cammaert’s mission.
The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of Hodeidah port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.
The text approved by the Security Council “insists on the full respect by all parties of the ceasefire agreed” for Hodeidah.
It authorises the UN to “establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days from the adoption of this resolution, an advance team to begin monitoring” the ceasefire, under Cammaert’s leadership.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been devastated by a multi-sided conflict involving local, regional and international actors.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels, who toppled the government of Hadi. A Saudi-UAE-led coalition allied with Yemen’s internationally recognised government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Since then, more than 60,000 people have been killed in the fighting and as many as 85,000 children may have starved to death.