Houthis boycott UN meeting, threaten more drone attacks
SANAA - Yemeni rebels on Sunday boycotted a meeting chaired by the head of a UN-led ceasefire monitoring team in the flashpoint city of Hodeida, accusing him of pursuing "other agendas", while threatening to repeat drone attacks.
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is leading a joint committee, which includes both government and rebel representatives, tasked with overseeing a truce in the Red Sea port city and the withdrawal of both parties.
Houthi rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam said Cammaert "steered from the course of the agreement by implementing other agendas".
"If (UN envoy to Yemen Martin) Griffiths does not address the issue, it is going to be difficult to discuss any other matter," he said on Twitter without elaborating.
A photographer said that the Houthi representatives did not take part in the committee meeting in Hodeida on Sunday.
The UN declined to comment.
‘Legitimate operation against aggression’
The Iranian-aligned Houthi group threatened on Sunday to launch more drone attacks after a deadly strike last week on a Yemeni government military parade, stoking further tension between the warring parties.
Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea said Thursday's drone strike on a military base in Lahaj province, which killed several people, was a "legitimate operation against aggression". He said the movement was building a stockpile locally manufactured drones.
"Soon there will be enough in the strategic stockpile to launch more than one drone operation in multiple battle fronts at the same time," Sarea told reporters in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
The attack on the military parade came as the United Nations tries to get peace talks going between the Houthis, who control most urban centres in Yemen, and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is based in the southern port city of Aden.
Clashes erupted between Houthi rebels and government forces in Hodeida on Saturday, dealing a new blow to the fragile truce.
The rebel-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in the Yemeni conflict after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
But last month the warring parties agreed a ceasefire for Hodeida during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.
The United Nations has said the truce has largely held since it came into force on December 18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of rebel and government forces.
The Houthis control most of Hodeida while government forces are deployed on the southern and eastern outskirts.
Since the Saudi-led military coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015, the conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
UN aid officials say 80 percent of the population -- 24 million people -- are in need of aid and nearly 10 million are just one step away from famine.