Sporadic clashes in Yemen's Hodeida ahead of UN truce team meeting

AFP , Wednesday 26 Dec 2018

Convoy of retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, who heads a United Nations advance team tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between the Houthi rebel group and government forces in Yemen's Hodeida, leaves Sanaa airport, Yemen December 23, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Sporadic clashes erupted Wednesday in Yemen's flashpoint city of Hodeida, an AFP correspondent said, as a UN-led truce monitoring team was scheduled to convene for the first time.

Government forces -- backed by a Saudi-led coalition -- and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels exchanged gunfire in the latest breach of the ceasefire.

The sound of heavy artillery could be heard to the east of the Red Sea city, with clashes stopping after a few hours.

A truce in Hodeida and its surroundings went into effect on December 18 but has remained shaky, with the two sides accusing each other of violations.

An official for the Saudi-led alliance said Tuesday that 10 pro-government troops have been killed since the ceasefire went into force, accusing the Houthis of 183 violations.

The rebels, in turn, said on the same day that they have recorded at least 31 violations in the past 24 hours by pro-government troops.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert -- who arrived in Hodeida on Sunday -- is heading a joint committee including members of the government and the Houthis to monitor the truce.

According to the United Nations, Cammaert will chair a meeting of the joint committee on Wednesday.

Yemen's warring sides agreed on the ceasefire to halt a devastating offensive by government forces and the coalition against rebel-held Hodeida at peace talks in Sweden this month.

The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of the lifeline port of Hodeida and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.

Around 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher.

The conflict has unleashed a major humanitarian crisis and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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