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UN ceasefire efforts fizzle as Hodeida fight ramps up

Pro-government forces arrive in Yemen's Hodeida earlier this month [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 June, 2018

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The Iran-backed Houthi rebels rejected a ceasefire and said Saudi-led forces have been escalating their attacks in Hodeida despite talks.

UN ceasefire efforts in Yemen fizzled on Monday as Saudi-backed loyalist forces press ahead with an offensive to retake the key port city of Hodeida.

After two days of talks in the capital Sanaa, UN envoy Martin Griffiths was due to brief the Security Council Monday on the crisis in Hodeida, an entry point for desperately-needed aid in war-torn Yemen. 

But the Iran-backed Houthi rebels rejected a ceasefire and said talks had failed after meeting with Griffiths on Sunday. 

Abdulaziz Saleh bin Habtoor accused Saudi-led forces of "escalating their attacks on the western coast when they felt there were serious moves towards a solution". 

Thousands of families have been displaced as loyalist forces, who are also backed by the UAE, battle towards the Red Sea port city.

The Houthis seized control of Hodeida along with the capital and much of northern Yemen in 2014, sparking an air intervention by the Saudi-led alliance in March 2015. 

The war in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has left at least 10,000 dead and triggered what the UN calls the "world's worst humanitarian crisis". Some 8 million of the country's 23 million are on the brink of starvation.

The Saudi alliance imposed a near-total blockade on Hodeida, where more than 70 percent of Yemen's imports flow through, alleging it was a conduit for arms deliveries to the Houthis. 

Multiple rounds of UN-brokered talks have failed to reach a deal between the internationally-recognised government and the Houthis. 

The capture of Hodeida would be the Saudi-led coalition's biggest victory of the war so far, but the UN and aid groups have warned it could spark a fresh humanitarian crisis. 

Loyalist forces in recent days reportedly closed in on areas south and west of the port, advancing on a disused rebel-held airport just south of the docks.

On Monday, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said at a press conference in Dubai that the Hodeida offensive would continue "unless rebels withdraw unconditionally". 

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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