Published: Thu, November 15, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

United Nations aid chief calls for ceasefire around Yemen's Hodeida port

United Nations aid chief calls for ceasefire around Yemen's Hodeida port

Days of fierce street fights between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels for the control of the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah have made it very hard for local families to flee to safe areas. The Guardian reported that the World Food Program managed to distribute aid today, despite conflicting reports of sporadic airstrikes.

The Hodeida campaign has sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where 14 million people face the risk of starvation.

The appeal came as Western powers stepped up pressure on the Saudi-led coalition to agree to talks with the Iran-backed Huthi rebels on ending the war.

Why it matters: After Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the United States would stop refueling Saudi and Emirati warplanes in Yemen, the deal leaves open a tiny window for UN-led peace talks in Yemen.

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"The battle of the Yemeni people to liberate Hodeida is inevitable, whether through peace or war", the statement said.

Clashes between Saudi-backed troops and rebels in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida abated Tuesday, after almost two weeks of fighting which left almost 600 people dead, including civilians. They said they would resume operations if they came under attack.

United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock on Tuesday called for a cessation of hostilities "in and around all the infrastructure and facilities on which the aid operation and commercial importers rely", a reference to the port of Hodeida, as pressure mounts for a truce after almost four years of conflict.

The U.S. State Department said on Sunday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a phone conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Khashoggi's death.

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Three port employees reached by telephone said the rebels had also begun to mine entryways to the port overnight.

In recent days, the military coalition led by the Saudi regime and militia groups loyal to Hadi have intensified their attacks on Hudaydah, which is seen as the main entry point for food imports and aid relief needed by millions in the war-torn country.

The coalition has come under intense global pressure to end the conflict, particularly following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom's rulers, in his country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The alliance accuses Iran of smuggling arms to the Houthis through Hodeida Port. Tehran denies the charges.

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"Serious consideration is being given to a set of political ideas and confidence-building measures that would allow for the start of political talks in Sweden by the end of November", the statement continued.

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