Intense fighting has erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah after an ease in violence that had raised hopes for a ceasefire across the war-torn country, two aid workers told CNN.
The Saudi-led coalition carried out a series of airstrikes Monday to support pro-government fighters, who clashed with Iran-backed Houthi rebels after both sides agreed to halt hostilities in the Red Sea city, one of the aid workers said. The other said fighting escalated with intense gunfire and bombardment after slowing down last week.
The renewed violence follows progress toward ending Yemen’s war of nearly four years, a conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people and has pushed the nation to the brink of the world’s worst famine in 100 years, leaving 14 million people at risk of starvation, according to the UN.
After talks scheduled for September stalled, moves to find a solution to the conflict have picked up pace, with international pressure mounting against Saudi Arabia, the most powerful player in what started as a civil war but evolved into a proxy conflict.
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government led by exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi confirmed it would participate in proposed peace talks in coming weeks in Sweden.
Saudi Arabia also agreed to allow dozens of Houthi fighters to leave the country for medical treatment and to facilitate Houthi negotiators in traveling to Sweden for talks.
Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade on Yemen a year ago in response to Houthi rebels firing a missile at Riyadh. The blockade has prevented aid, which once flowed through Hodeidah’s port, from reaching desperate civilians.
Houthi rebels said Sunday they would stop missile and drone strikes on Saudi coalition targets at the request of the UN. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the rebels were “willing to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts to reach a just and honorable peace.”
The UK shared a draft resolution with the UN Security Council in New York on Monday, calling for a ceasefire across Yemen, starting with a two-week break in fighting to allow more aid into the besieged country.
The Security Council continued discussing the draft resolution Tuesday, but a vote on it is not expected until after the US celebrates Thanksgiving on Thursday.
The Dutch ambassador to the UN, Karel van Oosterom, warned Tuesday that violence around Hodeidah would threaten the delivery of humanitarian aid, and that there was a desire at the Security Council to adopt the resolution as soon as possible.
There are ongoing discussions regarding amendments to the draft by other countries, van Oosterom said.
In its draft, the UK tiptoed around criticizing its Saudi allies, who are backed by the US and other nations in the conflict.
But the document condemned attacks by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and condemned those providing weapons to the Houthis, without directly mentioning Iran.
Last week, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met face-to-face with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where he presented him with the draft text, which sources said provoked anger.
Hunt presented the text to the Crown Prince as the powerful leader comes under intense scrutiny over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Two sources told CNN that the Crown Prince “threw a fit” over the resolution. Two other sources described his reaction less dramatically, but didn’t deny he was at the very least annoyed.
Hunt’s trip followed discussions with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
On October 30, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the State Department called on participants in the Yemen conflict to agree to a ceasefire “in the next 30 days.” He also said he expected to see the warring parties at peace talks.
And earlier this month, the US announced that it would no longer refuel Saudi aircraft conducting strike missions over Yemen. The US provides refueling for some 20% of Saudi aircraft.