Iran supports Houtihs to break the Stockholm Agreement in Yemen

UN calls for a ceasefire on the fifth day of fighting in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah
Hutíes Yemen

REUTERS  -   Hutu militants near the city of Hodeidah, Yemen

The war in Yemen continues despite the suffering of the Yemenis, despite warnings from the international community and even despite the signing of a ceasefire to provide truce during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Stockholm Agreement signed at the end of 2019 stipulated a cessation of hostilities in the city of Hodeidah and, furthermore, provided for an exchange of prisoners between Houthis and the government of Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, exiled in Riyadh. 

But Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, have violated the ceasefire with tanks and artillery on several occasions, breaking the Stockholm Agreement.  

The United Nations (UN) mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement has urged the parties to stop fighting after what locals called this confrontation the biggest escalation in the Yemeni conflict in two years.  

The mission stressed on Monday it was alarmed by the increase in fighting and urged an end to the violence which "could cause further human suffering and further loss of life and destruction". Already in 2018, humanitarian organisations were reporting that the Yemeni population was facing the greatest famine of the century. 

The situation has not improved, and on Wednesday Houthi rebels backed by Iran hit a food plant causing extensive damage. No casualties were reported, Colonel Mamoon al-Mahjami, spokesman for the Al-Amalikah Brigades in Hodeidah, told The National newspaper.  

“The Houthis' deliberate mortar attack caused huge fires to erupt in the plant. The flames destroyed three warehouses with all the equipment and the food stuffs stored in them," the colonel said. In a country already struggling with widespread malnutrition, a hit on food production is a serious issue.

Many worry that the fragile agreed to in Stockholm talks may not hold. To make matters worse, this week, residents in areas of eastern Hodeidah city said the rebels had launched the biggest offensive since the agreement was signed in December 2018.

The Houthis attacked the joint forces around the centre of Al Duraihimi city in eastern Hodeidah, where Houthi commanders have been posted at residential blocks since 2018. “Clashes fiercely erupted around the city and the Houthis pushed huge reinforcements and attacked the posts controlled by the joint forces with tanks and far-range artillery,” the resident said.

“Sunday’s attack was the biggest in two years. The clashes continued for 12 hours and both sides used tanks and artillery, which we haven’t seen for two years.

The weekend was preceded by a hard day. On Monday, the Houthis launched two attacks on posts controlled by the pro-government forces in the eastern outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah.The first was launched from Al Khamseen Street and another took place in the Kilo 16 area of eastern Hodeidah city, a commander in the joint forces said. “As usual, the Houthi rebels violated the ceasefire and broke the Stockholm agreement," he said.

Mina antipersonas Yemen
AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE - A member of the pro-government Yemeni forces finds a mine on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, while they continue to fight for control of the city
UN warns again of the importance of a ceasefire

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, warned yesterday “this military escalation not only constitutes a violation of the Hodeida ceasefire agreement but it runs against the spirit of the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations that aim to achieve a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic measures and the resumption of the political process,” 

Griffiths said he is following "with deep concern" the recent military escalation in the Red Sea province of Hodeidah, where earlier this week there has been an upsurge in fighting between UN-recognised government forces and Shiite Houthi rebels, who control the area since 2014. 

The UN fears that the negotiations will be broken off. "This military escalation runs counter to the spirit of the ongoing negotiations facilitated by the UN which aim to achieve a national ceasefire, humanitarian and economic measures and the resumption of the political process," the UN special envoy said in a statement.

"I call on them to immediately stop the fighting, respect the commitments they made under the Stockholm agreement, and engage with UNMHA’s joint implementation mechanisms" , but which has been repeatedly violated and whose implementation has so far proved very complicated, Mr. Griffiths added. 

Fighting between the two sides has intensified in the past week after the Houthis are attempting to expel the government forces, backed by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from the areas south of Hodeidah. 

So far the Yemeni army has reported several casualties in the fighting, without specifying a number, while the UN special envoy has warned that the victims include civilians, particularly women and children. 

The strategic port city of Hodeidah has been the scene of bloody fighting in recent years, especially in 2018, when the coalition blocked the town's port, the most important for the country's supplies, and whose closure led to acute food shortages and brought the population to the brink of famine. 

The war in Yemen has been widely criticised by the international community and has plunged the country into a deadlock that keeps nearly 80 percent of the population dependent on international aid in what the UN has described as the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet.

Yemen Saná
PHOTO/AP -In this archive photo from 13 April 2017, Yemenis present documents to receive food rations from a local charity in Sanaa, Yemen
FAO programme closure increases risk of famine among Yemenis

On Monday, the United Nations also warned that more than 200,000 families in Yemen are at risk of serious food insecurity because of the impact of the closure of a programme to assist with the vaccination of livestock, their main source of income. 

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said in a statement that those affected are "some of the poorest in Yemen and they are already hungry. Stopping vaccinations is a final blow.”

The closure of its vaccination programme has increased animal disease and mortality, and more than 215,000 rural households facing crisis and emergency food insecurity are now without part or all of their main source of income. “If their livestock is ill or dies, these families lose the income they need to survive.”

According to the UN,Livestock provides the main income for more than 3.2 million pastoralists across Yemen. Families keep sheep, goats and cattle, and rely on the consumption and sale of their products to survive. Last year, FAO provided veterinary assistance to 1.6 million animals, benefiting 100,000 farmers. 

US$3 million is urgently needed to restart the programme. "We are in a serious crisis right now in Yemen. If this vaccination programme is not restarted, it will have severe consequences for their livelihoods," said FAO's representative in the Arab country, Hussein Gadain. 

The United Nations has received this year 30 percent of the funds it had requested to provide assistance in Yemen, which is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the international agency. 

The armed conflict in Yemen makes it difficult for food and basic goods to reach the country, the infrastructure is devastated and many Yemenis are displaced or living in conflict zones, fenced in or without access to clean water or health care.