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 National - News - - NEWS -

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.

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