Deadly fighting erupts again in Yemen’s Hodeida

Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in the Al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen. (REUTERS)
Updated 01 December 2018
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Deadly fighting erupts again in Yemen’s Hodeida

  • The Hodeida port is held by the Houthis and serves as the entry point for nearly all of the country’s imports and humanitarian aid
  • Sporadic clashes have however continued since a fragile truce began on Nov. 13

DUBAI, ADEN: Renewed violence in Yemen’s vital port city of Hodeida has left 10 fighters dead, despite a UN push for peace talks, an official and medical sources told AFP on Saturday.

An official with pro-government forces said fighting erupted in the east and south of the Red Sea city on Friday.

Intermittent clashes continued on Saturday, Hodeida residents told AFP by phone.

The violence follows a visit to the city last month by UN envoy Martin Griffiths to press for talks aimed at ending the war.

The Hodeida port is held by the Houthis and serves as the entry point for nearly all of the country’s imports and humanitarian aid. 

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned on Saturday that the country was “on the brink of a major catastrophe.” His comments came after deadly clashes in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, vital for the flow of humanitarian aid.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government forces launched an assault to take Hodeida in June, but its forces had largely suspended the offensive amid intense diplomatic efforts.

Sporadic clashes have however continued since a fragile truce began on Nov. 13.

Medical sources on Saturday confirmed the bodies of eight militants had been transferred to hospitals. Two fighters with pro-government forces were also killed, according to a medical source at a hospital in an area held by the loyalists.

In a further sign of renewed tensions, Saudi Arabia said the Houthis launched a “military projectile” which hit a house in the Kingdom.

Two people were injured in the strike in Samtah governorate, Saudi state news agency SPA reported. It is the first confirmation by Riyadh of such a rocket attack since September.

The escalation comes just days ahead of proposed peace talks hosted by Sweden, which have been backed by both the coalition and militants.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, however, has played down the early December schedule and said he hoped talks would start “this year.”

“But, as you know, there have been some setbacks,” he said on Thursday. Riyadh has expressed concern over Houthi rocket attacks on Saudi territory, while the militants are seeking assurances their delegation will be able to safely leave and return to Yemen.

Previous talks planned for September in Geneva failed to get underway as the Houthi delegation never left the Yemeni capital Sanaa, arguing that the UN could not guarantee their safe return.

If conditions are met, all sides have in principle agreed to attend the talks in Sweden, including the government of Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.