Yemen's war: Clashes continue in Hodeidah ahead of ceasefire

UN-brokered truce between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels is expected to start at midnight on Monday.

    Yemen's war: Clashes continue in Hodeidah ahead of ceasefire
    Yemen's warring parties agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah at end of peace talks in Sweden [EPA/EFE/Stringer]

    Clashes have continued in Yemen's flashpoint city of Hodeidah for a third day, despite a UN-brokered ceasefire that is expected to go into effect at midnight local time (21:00 GMT) on Monday.

    Residents reported intermittent bouts of violence in the city's southern neighbourhoods on Monday, with gunfire and missiles being exchanged overnight between pro-government forces and Houthis rebels.

    "Although the violence stopped this morning, it broke out again," Kamal Abdul Ghani, a local resident, told the Associated Press news agency.

    The pro-Houthi Al-Masirah television network reported that government forces had targeted the city's southern neighbourhoods, with four people, including a child, reportedly injured in the attack.

    Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

    The clashes in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation, began on Friday after the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government agreed to cease fighting and withdraw their troops, after a week of consultations in Sweden that ended on December 13.

    The week-long negotiations were the first between Yemen's internationally recognised and Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels.

    Ceasefire to start on Tuesday

    Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani confirmed on Sunday that the ceasefire would go into force early on Tuesday.

    According to the UN, both parties will withdraw from the city within 21 days and international monitors will be deployed.

    A prisoner swap involving about 16,000 inmates is also expected to be completed before January 20.

    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.

    Speaking on Sunday at an event in the Qatari capital, Doha, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that if Yemen's humanitarian situation did not improve, 14 million people would need of food aid in 2019, six million more than this year.

    "There is a high level of hunger in Yemen," he said.

    "The fact that famine was not yet declared does not in any way diminish our huge concern with the very high level of hunger that exists in Yemen with a number of people dying in very dramatic circumstances."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies