AL-MUKALLA: UN observers in Hodeidah have urged the Iran-backed Houthis to reduce their “significant” presence in the western Yemeni city, warning that any military action would threaten the UN-brokered ceasefire and Stockholm Agreement.
The UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement, or UNMHA, said that it has seen large deployments of Houthi fighters in the city, raising fears of military activity that could undermine a fragile truce in the country.
“Hodeidah must be kept free of military manifestations, as agreed in Stockholm. UNMHA urges the Houthi leadership to respect the terms of the Hodeidah Agreement and refrain from actions that may contribute to escalation, in the interest of all Yemenis,” the UN mission said in a statement.
A relative peace has existed in Hodeidah since late last year when the joint forces of the government unilaterally abandoned their positions in and around the city to reinforce other battlefields in the country as part of a military plan sponsored by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.
Local military officials and analysts told Arab News that the Houthis recently gathered forces and equipment in Hodeidah in preparation for a large military parade, but did not rule out the possibility that the militia would attack the remaining government enclaves in the province.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Kumaim, a Yemeni military analyst, said that the Houthis transported tribespeople and military hardware from highlands under their control, including Amran and Dhamar, to Hodeidah for the parade.
Al-Kumaim said that the militia had taken advantage of the truce and absence of coalition warplanes to reinforce battlefields with fighters and recruit thousands through indoctrination camps, as well as organize military parades in Sanaa, Amran and Thamar.
Militia helicopters had flown over battlefields in Taiz for the first time since early 2015, he added.
“The Houthis want to claim massive military power and that they will not accept peace. They also want to send a message to their supporters that they intend to use military force,” Al-Kumaim said.
Steven Fagin, US ambassador to Yemen, condemned the Houthis for repeatedly attacking Al-Dhabab area, west of Taiz, in the past three days, killing and wounding dozens.
He urged warring factions to stop fueling violence in the country.
“I am deeply concerned about the Houthi attack on Al-Dhabab, in direct violation of the truce. To avoid further escalation, I call on all sides to continue full participation in the Military Coordination Committee,” Fagin said in a statement.
Despite confirmed reports of hundreds of violations by the Houthis, the UN-sponsored truce between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government of Yemen is largely holding, and casualty numbers have fallen significantly since April 2.