Houston Chronicle

Heavy fighting on west coast of Yemen kills more than 600


SANAA, Yemen — Heavy fighting in Yemen between pro-government forces and Shiite rebels has killed more than 600 people on both sides in recent days, security officials said Monday.

Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have been advancing along the western coast in recent weeks as they battle the Iran-allied rebels, known as Houthis. The fighting has escalated as government forces close in on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a vital lifeline through which most of Yemen’s food and medicine enters.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the fighting has forced dozens of families to leave their homes.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths was engaged in “intense negotiatio­ns,” shuttling between Yemen’s capital Sanaa, controlled by the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to avoid a “military confrontat­ion in Hodeida.”

U.N. humanitari­an chief Mark Lowcock told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors later Monday that it’s critical to prevent “a battle” for Hodeida which is a vital link for supplying millions of Yemenis with the necessitie­s of life.

He said “90 percent of food, fuel and medicines in Yemen are imported” — and 70 percent come through Hodeida, including desperatel­y needed humanitari­an aid for over 7 million people.

The internatio­nal aid group Oxfam said humanitari­an organizati­ons received warnings over the weekend for staff to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday ahead of an offensive.

“It’s also our plan and intention to stay and deliver,” Lowcock said. “We have dozens of U.N. staff still in Hodeida. We are working with very largely numbers of Yemeni organizati­ons and individual­s.”

The United States urged all parties of the conflict to ensure humanitari­an access to the Yemeni people, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday. The US, he said, is closely following developmen­ts in Hodeidah and urged Emirati leaders to preserve “the free flow of humanitari­an aid and life-saving commercial imports.”

The United Nations warned Friday that a military attack or siege on Hodeida would affect hundreds of thousands of civilians. Some 600,000 people live in and around the city.

Guterres, the U.N. chief, said there has been a recent “lull in the fighting” to allow for discussion­s and hopefully avoid a battle.

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