Hodeidah truce breached, coalition vows to step up pressure

UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash said the Houthis were blocking aid convoys from leaving Hodeidah and barring ships from entering.
Sunday 03/02/2019
Daunting task. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths (C) listens to an assistant as he stands with the Houthi-appointed governor of Hodeidah Muhammad Aiyyash Quhaim, January 29.      (Reuters)
Daunting task. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths (C) listens to an assistant as he stands with the Houthi-appointed governor of Hodeidah Muhammad Aiyyash Quhaim, January 29. (Reuters)

ADEN, Yemen - The Arab coalition fighting in support of the Yemeni government said it was ready to use “calibrated force” to drive Houthi rebels out of the port city of Hodeidah.

“Coalition prepared to use more calibrated force to prod Houthi compliance with Stockholm agreement,” UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash said January 30 on Twitter.

Gargash said the Iran-allied Houthi militia violated the ceasefire more than 1,000 times and that, since the agreement, 71 Yemeni forces had been killed and 534 injured. He claimed there had been Houthi “mortar attacks against food supplies and public markets.”

Gargash said the Houthis were blocking aid convoys from leaving Hodeidah and barring ships from entering. He described the actions as “a real impediment to the peace process.”

Gargash’s tweets urged the international community to press the Houthis to stop violations, facilitate aid convoys and move forward on withdrawal from Hodeidah. “Important that UN & international community take urgent action to press Houthis to comply with ceasefire agreement,” he said.

Gargash’s statements were made soon after UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths admitted that application of terms of the Stockholm agreement had met obstacles. During a stop in rebel-controlled Sana’a, Griffiths said implementation of the agreement reached in December in Sweden could not take place within specified dates.

Qatari-funded Al Jazeera reported that Griffiths said extending timetables for implementation of agreements is “expected because the situation on the ground is more complex” than expected.

The Hodeidah agreement, which went into effect in mid-December, stipulates a full ceasefire, followed by the withdrawal and redeployment of rival forces from the city. Neither has been accomplished.

Yemeni political analyst Siyaf al-Gharbani said Griffiths was absorbing the shock of failure to implement the Hodeidah agreement on behalf of the Houthis. Gharbani said the UN envoy was trying to get warring factions back to the negotiating table.

A report from Al Arabiya quoted Yemeni government spokesman Rajih Badi, as saying that Patrick Cammaert, who heads the UN group monitoring the ceasefire in Hodeidah, had returned to the city after the Houthis promised Griffiths to implement the agreement.

 

However, Cammaert’s return appears to be temporary. The United Nations announced that Danish Lieutenant-General Michael Lollesgaard would replace Cammaert, who resigned in late January. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Lollesgaard, Denmark’s military representative to NATO, has 30 years of national and international military experience.

Lollesgaard is expected to start his mission in February.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Royal Air Force destroyed a drone launched by Houthi rebels over the Saudi city of Abha, Al Arabiya reported January 30. Coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said the drone was flying in the direction of civilian areas in Abha.

The coalition’s command warned the Houthis “in the strongest terms” against targeting “civilian property and civilians,” Malki was quoted as saying.

The rebels have launched numerous ballistic missile and drone attacks at Saudi territory and Yemeni government forces and allied coalition troops inside Yemen. The coalition has destroyed several sites in Sana’a used to stockpile and launch drones.

Malki said an attack against a suspected drone base in Sana’a was an extension of an operation begun in mid-January to demolish the “entire network of logistical capacities and facilities for drones… and the places where foreign experts are located.”            

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