AL-MUKALLA: The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has urged warring factions in Yemen to stop fighting in the western city of Hodeida immediately, warning that they risk undermining the Stockholm Agreement and his continuing efforts to reach a peaceful deal.
“This military escalation not only constitutes a violation of the Hodeida cease-fire agreement, but it runs against the spirit of the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations that aim to achieve a nationwide cease-fire, humanitarian and economic measures and the resumption of the political process," Griffiths said in a statement on Thursday.
“I have been engaging with all sides. I call on them to immediately stop the fighting, respect the commitments they made under the Stockholm agreement, and engage with UNMHA’s joint implementation mechanisms,” he said, referring to the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement.
Forces loyal to the internationally recognized government have been engaged in heavy fighting with Houthi insurgents since Friday, violating the truce agreed under the Stockholm Agreement.
Griffiths has been pushing to convince the warring parties to put a nationwide cease-fire in place ahead of comprehensive peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the war.
The latest round of fighting broke out on Friday in Hays and Al-Durihim districts when the Houthis launched a major assault on government troops with the aim of breaking a siege on pockets of their forces and seizing control of new areas, local army commanders and state media said. Two days later, fighting broke out in other contested areas in the city of Hodeida, during which the army and the Houthis traded heavy fire that rocked the city.
“Huge explosions as if the war has just started,” Dr. Ashawaq Mahram, a physician from Hodeida city, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Shortly after the Griffiths’ appeal, army commanders told Arab News that they had received orders to stop fighting in Hodeida. “Government forces were ordered to show restraint in response to the UN call,” said Abdurrahman Hajari, a military commander of Tehama Resistance, a unit battling Houthis in Hodeida, adding that the Houthis continued shelling government forces in Hodeida on Thursday.
“The Houthis have never adhered to any truce. The Houthis are amassing huge forces along the western coast,” Hajari said.
Also on Thursday, the pro-government Joint Forces said in a statement that hundreds of Houthis, including high-ranking field commanders, have been killed or wounded in Hodeida, adding that the Joint Forces had foiled consecutive Houthi attempts to advance in the province.
Under the Stockholm Agreement, the Yemeni government agreed in 2018 to halt a major military offensive on Houthi-controlled Hodeida, including its seaport, provided the Houthis withdrew from the port and deposited revenues in the central bank in the city. Government troops have been stationed in Al-Khamseen and Sanaa streets, east of Hodeida, since 2018.
In March, the Yemeni government suspended participation in the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in Hodeida after a Houthi sniper gunned down a government soldier.
Hundreds of people have been killed since late 2018 in sporadic fighting between the two parties. Yemeni government officials link the escalation in fighting by the Houthis to heavy setbacks that they suffered on other battlefields, including the northern province of Jouf.
Government troops recently announced that they had seized control of a strategic military base in Jouf and pushed deep into Houthi-controlled areas in the province. Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told official media that the Houthis had intensified attacks in Hodeida to compensate for setbacks in Al-Bayda, Marib and Jouf.