HOUTHIS’ TRENCH DIGGING AND USE OF DRONES ALARMS UN
▶ Head of observer mission says progress made through setting up of joint observation posts is under threat
The United Nations expressed alarm yesterday at the digging of new trenches in Hodeidah by Houthi rebels and reports that drones are being used in direct contravention of a long-disputed ceasefire.
The head of the UN’s observer mission said that progress made by the establishment of joint observation posts was under threat because of the apparent breaches.
Lt Gen Abhijit Guha urged both sides to observe the ceasefire and to act in good faith to deal with incidents of escalation.
The developments came after Yemeni military officials said on Thursday that an international medical relief agency’s hospital in western Yemen was hit in a Houthi drone and missile attack, causing huge explosions that killed at least eight people.
Medecins Sans Frontieres said they closed the hospital because of the attack but revealed that there were no reports of deaths or injuries among its patients, who were transferred to other health facilities in the Red Sea city of Mocha.
MSF said the hospital opened in August last year, offering free services to wounded people and surgery.
Wadah Dobish, a spokesman for Yemen’s internationally recognised government, also said the Houthi attack struck warehouses used by a government-allied force late on Wednesday, causing a large explosion and fires that spread to residential areas.
Mr Dobish said the targets of the attack were government-aligned forces known as the Giants Brigade.
He said at least three drones also took part in the attack.
After five years of conflict, Yemen remains a divided country.
The Iran-backed Houthis have controlled the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north since 2014.
A Saudi-led, US-backed military coalition has fought against the rebels and backs the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Mocha, historically famous for its coffee exports, lies in the southern part of Hodeidah province.
The port in the provincial capital, also named Hodeidah,
is Yemen’s most important entry point for international aid and other materials.
It has been the centre of UN-brokered negotiations since December to bring about a durable ceasefire to prevent the suspension of crucial aid deliveries.
Wednesday’s escalation could now jeopardise the UN deal, which was criticised by observers as vague and hard to enforce.
The hospital in Mocha is the only functional facility treating thousands of severely malnourished children from the area. It also treats the children of Yemenis who fled to Mocha over the past year to escape fighting in other areas.
The escalation came days after Mr Hadi and southern factions signed a new powersharing deal to end months of infighting in southern Yemen.
The UN Security Council issued a statement on Wednesday hailing the power-sharing agreement as “a positive and important step towards a comprehensive and inclusive political solution for Yemen”.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the signatories set an example for compromise to end the conflict and achieve stability in the war-torn country.