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Clashes break out in Yemen's key port city of Hodeida after cease-fire

The Japan Times

SANAA - Fighting erupted in Yemen's key port city of Hodeida on Sunday, the first significant clashes since warring sides agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal in December, security officials and eyewitnesses said. Fires burned on the main front lines in the city's east and south, while exchanges of artillery fire shook buildings in combat that broke out overnight, they said. Both the Shiite Houthi rebels who hold the city and the government-backed troops who oppose them have been seen erecting barricades and digging defensive trenches. "All night long, we hear the loud roar of machine guns and artillery, which had been silent for the past two weeks," said resident Ahmed Nasser, adding that he was worried for relatives who had returned to the July 7 neighborhood on the city's eastern front. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists, while witnesses did so for fear of their safety.

Houthi rebels begin withdrawal from key ports in Yemen

The Japan Times

SANAA - Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday began a long-delayed withdrawal of forces from the port facility in the key city of Hodeida, the group said, following the terms of a December cease-fire aimed at alleviating the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the pullout from Hodeida, as well as the two smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, started at 10 a.m. The country's bloody civil war erupted in September 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels swept into the capital city of Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition soon intervened to back the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The cease-fire in Hodeida, which halted months of heavy fighting in the city, called for the mutual withdrawal of rebel and government forces from the city's port, and the two smaller ports in the province.

Yemeni combatants agree on first stage of pullback from key port of Hodeida

The Japan Times

CAIRO - Yemen's government and the Houthi rebels have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeida, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said. A U.N. statement late Sunday said the agreement came after two days of meetings in Hodeida. The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in the city and a prisoner exchange during talks held in Sweden in December, but the implementation of both has been stalled. The statement said both sides "made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeida agreement." Yemen's government has been battling the rebels since 2014, when the Houthis swept down from the north and seized the capital, Sanaa.

Dozens reported dead amid heavy fighting around Yemen's Hodeida port

The Japan Times

SANAA – Heavy fighting along Yemen's west coast between pro-government forces and Shiite rebels in recent days has left dozens dead from both sides, Yemeni officials and witnesses said Sunday. Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have been advancing in the area in recent weeks as they battle Iran-allied rebels known as Houthis. The fighting has escalated as government forces try to retake the port city of Hodeida, the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of famine. The government has been waging an offensive to seize the rebel-held district of Zabid south of Hodeida, the officials said. The offensive is being waged by ground troops carrying sophisticated weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, with air cover from the Saudi-led coalition, they said.

U.N. approves mission to shore up Yemen truce at key port of Hodeida

The Japan Times

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved Wednesday the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile cease-fire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flash-point port of Hodeida. The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city. The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months. The port of Hodeida is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen's supplies of imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions on the brink of starvation. The U.N. says a cease-fire that went into force on Dec. 18 in Hodeida has been generally holding despite some clashes, but there have been delays in the redeployment of rebel and government forces from the city.