Yemeni, Saudi and UAE forces hit rebel positions outside Hudaida

Hudaida is the latest battlefront in Yemen war that has killed up to 10,000 people since 2015, including 2,200 children.

Displaced in Hudaida
Hudaida is the latest battlefront in Yemen's war that has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2015 [Abdo Haidar/Al Jazeera]

Yemeni government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombarded rebel positions outside Hudaida after pausing their push into the strategic Red Sea port city, government sources said on Tuesday.

With the Houthi rebels building up their defences inside Hudaida to repel any advances, more civilians fled the city, AFP reporters said.

According to military sources, both sides were bringing in reinforcements.

Hospital sources and local residents said 11 civilians and 43 rebel fighters were killed on Sunday and Monday as the rebels came under fire south of Hudaida.

Houthis have held the port city since 2014, but government forces backed by UAE troops launched a major assault last month to recapture the city.

So far, it has captured the abandoned airport on the southern outskirts of the city following weeks of attempting to do so.

On Saturday, the government and the UAE announced a pause in their advance.

This week’s deadly bombardment targeted rebel positions in Tohayta, Beit al-Faqiya and Zabid, to the south of Hudaida, according to government military sources.

Three civilians were killed in their car in a coalition air raid targeting rebel military vehicles on a road near Zabid, residents said.

Eight civilians, including four children, died in a rocket attack on Tohayta, witnesses said, with residents saying the attack was carried out by the Houthis.

Civilians flee

Civilians were seen fleeing, loading suitcases, mattresses and sacks of basic supplies onto the back of their vehicles.

AFP reporters saw families squeezed onto motorcycles, while other civilians fled in minibuses and other vehicles.

Some pick-up trucks were so overloaded that the men clung onto the back rails and stood on bumpers while the women and children sat inside.

Portraits of Saleh al-Sammad, a Houthi political chief who was killed in a coalition strike in April, gazed down from lampposts in litter-strewn streets outside the city.

Many civilians have already fled front-line areas.

Resident Mohammed Ali told AFP that many others had been unable to flee.

“There are a lot of people still stuck in some villages without any aid. The human rights organisations have to help them,” he said.

The head of the United Nations children’s agency warned on Tuesday that fears over the collapse of Yemen’s healthcare and education systems had in essence materialised.

“The worry about collapse has now passed beyond that,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore, noting that many health workers and teachers had now gone unpaid for two years.

Hudaida is the latest battlefront in Yemen’s war that has killed nearly 10,000 people – including 2,200 children – since 2015, pushing the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

Desperately needed relief supplies and three-quarters of Yemen’s commercial imports pass through the port in the city, which has a population of 600,000 people.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Sunday in a new bid to reach a deal to avert a devastating all-out battle for Hudaida.

Griffiths said a proposal to grant the UN a major role in managing the port is under examination.

But the government and the UAE have demanded the rebels withdraw unconditionally from the whole city, not just the port – a condition the rebels have rejected.

The UAE accuses the Houthis of smuggling in weapons through the port.

Source: AFP