Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

The Saudi-led Arab coalition and Houthi militia last month agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah, above, during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

  • Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day
  • UN officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid

HODEIDAH: Clashes erupted between Houthi militia and government forces in Yemen’s flashpoint port city of Hodeidah on Saturday, dealing a new blow to a fragile truce, an AFP correspondent reported.
Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day, the correspondent said.
The Houthi-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in the Yemeni conflict after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
But last month the warring parties agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.
The United Nations has said the truce has largely held since it came into force on December 18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of the Houthis and government forces.
The Houthis control most of Hodeidah while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.
The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
UN aid officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid and nearly 10 million are just one step away from famine.
UN aid coordinator Lise Grande visited Hodeidah on Friday and met local officials, the head of Yemen’s National Authority for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jaber Al-Razahi, said.
“The reason for the visit of UN humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande to Hodeidah is to see the humanitarian situation ... and ensure the arrival of aid through the port,” Al-Razahi said.


Man shot dead as Lebanese army disperse protesters

Updated 56 min 13 sec ago

Man shot dead as Lebanese army disperse protesters

  • The death is the second during the nationwide protests that have paralyzed the country

BEIRUT: A man was shot dead south of Beirut after the army opened fire to disperse protesters blocking roads, Lebanese state media said Wednesday, nearly a month into an unprecedented anti-graft street movement.
The victim “succumbed to his injuries” in hospital, the National News Agency said, the second death during the nationwide protests that have paralyzed the country.
The army said in a statement that it had arrested a soldier after he opened fire in the coastal town of Khalde, just below the capital, to clear protesters “injuring one person.”
Protesters have been demanding the ouster of a generation of politicians seen by demonstrators as inefficient and corrupt, in a movement that has been largely peaceful.
On Tuesday night, street protests erupted after President Michel Aoun defended the role of his allies, the Shiite movement Hezbollah, in Lebanon’s government.
Protesters responded by cutting off several major roads in and around Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern region of Bekaa.
The Progressive Socialist Party, led by influential Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, said in a statement that the man shot dead was one its members.
A long-time opponent of President Michel Aoun, Jumblatt appealed to his supporters to stay calm.
“In spite of what happened, we have no other refuge than the state. If we lose hope in the state, we enter chaos,” he said.
The government stepped down on October 29 but stayed on in a caretaker capacity and no overt efforts have so far been made to form a new one, as an economic crisis brings the country to the brink of default.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of protesters had gathered near the law courts in central Beirut and tried to stop judges and lawyers from going to work, demanding an independent judiciary.
Employees at the two main mobile operators, Alfa and Touch, started a nationwide strike.
Many schools and universities were closed, as were banks after their employees called for a general strike over alleged mistreatment by customers last week.

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The UN’s special coordinator for the country, Jan Kubis, urged Lebanon to accelerate the formation of a new government that would be able “to appeal for support from Lebanon’s international partners.”
“The financial and economic situation is critical, and the government and other authorities cannot wait any longer to start addressing it,” he said.
The leaderless protest movement first erupted after a proposed tax on calls via free phone apps, but it has since morphed into an unprecedented cross-sectarian outcry against everything from perceived state corruption to rampant electricity cuts.
Demonstrators say they are fed up with the same families dominating government institutions since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
In his televised address on Tuesday, Aoun proposed a government that includes both technocrats and politicians.
“A technocratic government can’t set the policies of the country” and would not “represent the people,” he said in the interview on Lebanese television.
Asked if he was facing pressure from outside Lebanon not to include the Iran-backed Hezbollah in a new government, he did not deny it.
But, he said, “they can’t force me to get rid of a party that represents at least a third of Lebanese,” referring to the weight of the Shiite community.
The latest crisis in Lebanon comes at a time of high tensions between Iran and the United States, which has sanctioned Hezbollah members in Lebanon.
Forming a government typically takes months in Lebanon, with protracted debate on how best to maintain a fragile balance between religious communities.
The World Bank says around a third of Lebanese live in poverty and has warned the country’s struggling economy could further deteriorate if a new cabinet is not formed rapidly.