By ahmed al-haj, Associated press |
SANAA, Yemen — (ABC News) Fighting has erupted between Shiite rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government near the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeida, leaving at least 12 people dead and 25 others wounded from both sides, officials said on Sunday, just two days ahead of the implementation of a cease-fire agreed in talks in Sweden earlier this week.
They said the fighting south and east of Hodeida began Saturday night and continued until Sunday afternoon, a development that does not bode well for a cease-fire in Hodeida, whose port sees about 70 percent of Yemen’s food aid and other imports coming into the country.
The cease-fire is expected to go into effect Tuesday, according to the Yemeni officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Yemen’s civil war, in which a Saudi-led coalition is fighting against the rebels, has pushed much of the country to the brink of famine. It has already left 22 of its 29 million people in need of aid, according to the U.N.
A cessation of hostilities at Hodeida would spare Yemen a significant spike in civilian casualties since the rebels holding the city have shown battlefield resilience in the face of much larger government-allied forces and airstrikes and will likely not surrender the city without ruinous street-to-street fighting in densely populated neighborhoods.
Speaking Sunday at Doha, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that if Yemen’s humanitarian situation does not improve, 14 million people there will be in need of food aid in 2019, six million more than this year.