AL-MUKALLA: A commercial ship, carrying 724 containers of various items, docked at Yemen’s western port city of Hodeidah for the first time in seven years, the Iran-backed Houthis — who control the port — said on Saturday.
Abdul Wahab Al-Durra, the Houthi minister of transportation, told reporters that container, fuel, and other commodity ships had begun entering ports from Djibouti, where they were examined under the UN Yemen Verification and Inspection Mechanism.
“The docks at the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, and Ras Issa are crowded with ships, and there are ships waiting to unload in the draft,” Al-Durra said, adding that a further 18 ships are currently on their way.
Houthi media released videos showing employees unloading the Ethiopian-flagged Shebelle cargo and container ship.
The UNVIM — stationed in Djibouti — was created in 2016 at the request of the Yemeni government to check ships heading to Houthi-controlled ports to ensure they are not smuggling weapons to the Houthis.
A Yemeni government official told Arab News on Sunday that the Arab coalition had given the go-ahead for the ships to head to Houthi-occupied ports in an effort to pressure the militia into renewing the UN-brokered ceasefire, and to pave the way for a more durable peace agreement.
Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, said last week that Saudi officials informed the council of behind-the-scenes engagements and communications with the Houthis, and that their efforts were intended to achieve a breakthrough in getting the Houthis to sign an agreement with the Yemeni government to end the war.
The arrival of the new ships at Houthi-controlled Hodeidah happened on the same day that the Yemeni government urged local merchants and international shipping companies to import goods through government-controlled ports, promising to provide them with reduced transportation costs and insurance, and to protect them from Houthi threats.
The Yemeni government on Saturday accused the Houthis of waging an economic war by instructing traders in regions under their control to import products through Hodeidah instead of government-controlled ports.
“Attempts by the Houthis to transform the peace process into an economic war aimed at aggravating the plight of the Yemeni people will fail, and the government will do all in its power to combat any unlawful actions,” the Yemeni Cabinet said, according to the official news agency SABA.
Meanwhile, on the ground, nine Yemeni government soldiers and an unknown number of Houthis were killed in fighting in the Hareb area of Marib’s central province.
An official told Arab News that the Houthis launched an attack on government troops on Bawareh mountain in Hareb at midnight on Saturday, resulting in fierce fighting and a heavy exchange of fire that ended when the Houthis were forced to retreat after encountering stiff resistance and failing to seize control of the mountain.
“The Houthi attack on the strategic mountain range connecting Hareb and Juba was repelled,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.